US State Department official implies $10 million bounty on Haqqani is still ‘in place’

US State Department ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice Beth van Schaack said Tuesday that her office continues to track violations by the Taliban that includes gender persecution against women and girls in Afghanistan, and of attack on minorities, such as Hazaras.

She said minorities, namely Hazaras, have been subjected to extreme persecution not just from the Taliban but also from ISIS and other groups operating within Afghanistan.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, she said the International Criminal Court has an open investigation and has indicated that it is prioritizing crimes committed by the Taliban and other non-state actors. She stated that the prosecutor has appointed a senior special advisor on gender persecution “who has put forth a very comprehensive policy on how the Office of the Prosecutor should prosecute gender persecution before the International Criminal Court.”

She said while no charges have yet been lodged, “we do anticipate that they will be, and so that’s an area to watch.”

Asked about the US State Department’s bounty on the head of Taliban’s interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani of $10 million, van Schaack said while the United States has several rewards programs that are used to identify, locate, and bring to justice individuals who are associated with acts of terrorism or transnational crimes, this particular “bounty” was administered by another State Department office.

However, she noted that as long as Haqqani is on the Wanted list, “then he remains considered to be eligible for – individuals who would bring information forward with respect to that individual would be eligible to receive rewards for that information in the event that person is eventually brought to justice.”

She went on to state that the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education was “one of the most unconscionable acts of the Taliban, to deny young girls the ability to plan their own life paths, to operate in public, to have – to contribute to the growth and vibrancy of that particular society.”

Van Schaack said in all of the State Department’s engagements with the Taliban, the issue of lifting restrictions is raised. “We have a special envoy who’s dedicated to women and girls and their plight within Afghanistan, and she is constantly engaging with officials in an effort to improve the situation and life for girls and women.”

The Haqqani Network was believed to have been behind major attacks across Afghanistan prior to the collapse of the former government. Sirajuddin Haqqani took over as leader of the group following the death of his father Jalaluddin Haqqani in 2018.

Analysts have said for years that the Haqqani Network works with ISIS. Designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis were known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.

They were blamed for the devastating truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people—though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom. They included the Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children—all born in captivity—who were released in 2017, as well as U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in 2014.