The Haqqani network has increased their presence in Afghanistan’s north, through their partnership with the Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), says the US-based Institute for the War Studies (IWS).

A report titled ‘The Haqqani Network –A Strategic Threat’ claims that the Haqqanis and IMU execute targeted assassinations of northern powerbrokers who are affiliated with the Jamiat-e-Islami Party. These assassinations are meant to undermine the Jamiat and the influence of minority powerbrokers, who are historical rivals to the Pashtuns and the Pakistani state.

The report further claims that the group, also enjoying ties to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, is not reconcilable. They also do not fully follow the guidance of the Quetta Shura of Taliban, because they maintain a separate power base and leadership structure.

The Haqqanis have also increased operational reach and jihadist credentials over the past several years toward the Quetta Shura’s historical strongholds in southern Afghanistan and the areas surrounding Kabul. The report calls for a sustained, well-resourced offensive against the Haqqani network inside of Afghanistan, saying the campaign would likely require at least two adequately-resourced fighting seasons. Consequently, it is imperative that the US retains force levels at 68,000 troops after September 2012, rather than conducting a further drawdown. Without such a campaign, the Haqqani Network will be a dominant force inside of Afghanistan indefinitely, and the United States would fail to achieve its stated objective of preventing the return of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups to Afghanistan.

The institute further claims that while using their safe havens in North Waziristan and Kurram agencies in Pakistan, the Haqqanis project men and material to resource their terrorist campaign in Afghanistan’s south-eastern provinces of Khost, Paktika and Paktia onwards to the provinces surrounding Kabul, adding that the Haqqani network is the primary proxy force backed by elements of Pakistan’s security establishment.

It says Pakistan’s support for the Haqqani Network has increased, through both facilitating additional sanctuary and providing strategic and operational guidance.

The Haqqanis serve Pakistan’s interests by dominating key terrain along the border and beyond in Afghanistan’s south and east, serving as a Pakistani-influenced ‘firewall’ against national, northern, US and Indian influence. The Haqqanis would also serve Pakistan’s interests by being the primary influence in Afghanistan’s Ghilzai Pashtun lands, as well as the tribal areas in North Waziristan, organising these tribal areas in ways consistent with Pakistan’s interests.