Supporters “Are in the Oil Industry”: Declassified DIA Cables Show Haqqani Network Revenue Streams
Less than a dozen men were running the militant Islamist Haqqani Network (HQN) by the time the State Department declared it a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2012, and this extremely small group continues to determine which illicit activities the organization engages in to fund its fight against US-led forces in Afghanistan. Defense Intelligence Agency documents dated from 2008 through 2010 recently obtained by the National Security Archive in response to a FOIA request offer a window into a transitional period for the organization, before the State Department declared the group a terrorist organization and the US Treasury designated Haqqani leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2014, subjecting them to sanctions. The documents illuminate the group’s efforts to diversify its funding away from the foreign sources it relied on during the Cold War, including the CIA and Pakistani intelligence services, and towards more traditionally criminal activity – and show squabbles over the sharing of ransom money, dispersal of funds to suicide bombers, financial links between HQN and the Karzai government, and Taliban funding for the group’s activities.
One of the early financial challenges for Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group’s founder, was coping with the end of the Cold War and the drying up of American resources. Barbara Elias notes in 2009’s “The Taliban File” that Haqqani received tens of thousands of dollars and weapons from the CIA between 1986 and 1994. CIA funding ended by the mid-1990s, although Haqqani’s relationship with the US only deteriorated in earnest in the late-1990s after the US bombed an HQN-linked training camp in retaliation for al-Qaida attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and Haqqani’s relationship with Osama bin Laden deepened.
A Confidential June 12, 1998, State Department cable, first published in Elias’s 2012 “The Haqqani History,” notes that Jalaluddin advocated for bin Laden within the Taliban, and that bin Laden’s increased power was due at least in part to “the growing strength of his supporters within the Taliban movement.” The US’s growing concern with bin Laden is shown in a May 24, 1999, cable summarizing a meeting between Haqqani and US officials, during which Haqqani agrees that bin Laden is “a problem,” but insists that “maybe the best solution is what is taking place now with him remaining in the country.” Haqqani also says that “he was deeply appreciative of U.S. assistance during the ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the Soviets and the (Afghan) communists,” but remains antagonistic over US destruction of a terrorist camp in Khost, Afghanistan, in August 1998. Haqqani even initiates the meeting by “joking” that it was “good to meet someone from the country which had destroyed my base, my madrassh [sic], and killed 25 of my mujahideen.”
Despite the historical ties between the groups, al-Qaida funding is not a major source of income for HQN; a September 24, 2009, DIA cable shows that when al-Qaida funding was received, it was relatively small amounts that were “generally provided by Al Qaida leader Shaykh Said al-Masri through Sirajudding Haqqani and Jan Baz Zadran, who is a HQN commander in Miram Shah, PK, in amounts of approximately 3,000 – 5,000 USD.”
West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center (CTC) notes in a 2012 report that Jalaluddin was also motivated to decrease his organization’s dependence on Pakistani financing, and began vigorous fundraising efforts in the Gulf States in the 1990s to do so. A newly released April 8, 2010, DIA cable shows this practice continues. According to the cable, a well-connected individual “travels on behalf of the Haqqani network to a city in the vicinity of Dubai to collect charitable donations which are used to fund unspecified Haqqani network operations.”
However, a series of DIA cables (from January 11, 2010, and February 6, 2010) show that some funding for Haqqani attacks are still provided by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, including $200,000 for the December 30, 2009, attack on the CIA facility at Camp Chapman.
During Jalaluddin’s tenure the group also offered microloans to those living in its territory in North Waziristan, Pakistan, in a move that fostered goodwill and “really made a difference in these communities.” The attempts at public relations under Jalaluddin is not entirely unsurprising; a 1997 State Department cable reports Jalaluddin to be “more liberal” in his opinions on social policy, such as women’s rights, and seems to have understood the importance of maintaining credibility with the local community.
Jalaluddin was forced to retire in 2005, however, and his son Sirajuddin assumed the leadership, marking an increase in the group’s illicit activity.
Protecting smuggling enterprises in the border areas under its control, as well as engaging in its own, has become an important source of income for HQN under Sirajuddin. Interestingly, according to the CTC report, HQN imports “the precursor chemicals used to process raw opium into morphine base and heroin, including lime, hydrochloric acid and acetic anhydride (AA). If true, this may indicate that the Haqqanis have a non‐competition agreement with the Kandahari Taliban in the heroin business, or it could simply suggest that Haqqani leaders have realized that smuggling precursors is less risky and often more lucrative, since a glut in poppy production drives down wholesale opium prices.”
These sustained efforts have ensured that the group remains financially autonomous from the Taliban, although it receives a monthly stipend from the Quetta branch “to cover operational costs, and the budget shifts depending on the season and the funding capacity of the Taliban leadership.”
A September 24, 2009, DIA cable notes that the Quetta branch remains a stable source of HQN funding, saying that “A large majority of the Haqqani Network (HQN) funding comes from the Quetta, Pakistan-based Taliban leadership.” The cable goes on to say that “HQN pays fighters who conduct successful attacks against coalition forces (CF) Afghan National Army (ANA) or Afghan National Police (ANP), with larger amounts paid for killing a coalition member. A key point in the dispersal and receiving of funds within the HQN is the videotaping of attacks.”
One of the shifts that occurred along with the change in leadership was HQN’s increase of kidnap-for-ransom, a “growth industry” in which HQN cooperates “seamlessly” with other militant groups, but one that seems to have effected HQN’s credibility. Bowe Bergdahl is perhaps HQN’s most famous kidnapping victim, and would have undoubtedly been on HQN’s list of “legitimate targets,” which include “government officials and security personnel; those who cooperate with government; foreigners; transporters servicing NATO; and alleged spies.” New York Times journalist David Rohde and Afghan diplomat Haji Khaliq Farahi were also targets. The CTC report notes, however, that such behavior “appears to have lowered the network in the public estimation.”
Kidnapping-for-ransom, however, remains a way for unpaid Haqqani militants to make money. Low-ranking militants earn little, if any, money, and operate with a great deal of autonomy – making the occasional moonlighting – and tension over it – all but inevitable. A Secret September 29, 2009, DIA cable recounts one such ransom dispute. “As of late September 2009, Spera District Haqqani Network (HQN) commander Hamid (Rahman) had strained relations with the HQN leadership, including senior commander Siraj (Haqqani), over ransom money embezzled by Rahman. Rahman and an unidentified Iraqi Al-Qaida associate had kidnapped a road construction worker in Spera District for ransom and neglected to send the ransom money obtained to HQN leadership in Pakistan. As a result, Siraj Haqqani ordered Rahman to return to Miram Shah/[redacted] north Waziristan, PK, in order to account for the money. Rahman ignored the order and did not travel to Miram Shah due to fear that he would be killed by HQN leadership for his transgression.”
Donations and fundraising continue to be an important for HQN. A Secret March 22, 2009, DIA cable provides an example of a routine donation for HQN. It notes, “As of mid-February 2009, the Hadika ta Uloom madrassa in Dera Ismail Khan, PK was facilitating financial support for the Haqqani Network (HQN). The leader of the mosque, Maulawi din Mohammad (Khalifa), was facilitating contact between HQN commanders and local businessmen willing to donate money and assistance to the HQN.” The five businessmen contacted, all from the oil industry, provided a total of $17,000 USD.
HQN leaders also recognize the importance of a good media campaign. The CTC report finds that “Just as Jalaluddin before them, network leaders today conduct fundraising road shows, visiting large mosques around the region where they ask for alms from worshipers. As in the past, the Haqqanis appear to realize the importance of publicity materials to communicate their successes and to help to generate donations at these events. The network publishes considerable multi‐media material concerning its activities, and appears to consider publicity a core aspect of financial operations.”
HQN’s complicated relationship with the Afghan government, and its financial payoffs, are also highlighted in a Secret August 31, 2010, cable. The cable explains how a security manager in Khost province, Qabool Khan, simultaneously provides HQN with intelligence on US bases in Salerno and Chapman, while providing HQN with money and the license plate numbers of US vehicles of military personnel and contractors that serve on the two bases. Khan obtained his position with the security company – which posted private security guards on US bases – through Mahmoud Karzai, brother of Afghan president Hamid. “Khan receives $800.00 U.S. dollars per guard, per month, in which $200.00 U.S. dollars goes to the guard, $300.00 U.S. dollars to Khan, and $300.00 U.S. dollars is given to the Haqqani network… in return Khan is not attacked by Haqqani operatives leaving the American base or Khan’s personal residence. Khan leaves his window down when leaving the American base as a signal to Haqqani operatives not to attack his vehicle.”
These documents were requested under the FOIA as part of the Archive’s Afghanistan, Pakistan and Taliban project, and we will continue to post on interesting documents as they come in.