Information shows that Sirajuddin Haqqani was hosting a peace negotiation meeting of a 12-member team from the Pakistani government and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Wazir Akbar Khan area in downtown Kabul when the drone strike happened on Saturday.
Based on the information, Haqqani’s guesthouse is located near the place where the attack happened and according to some foreign media reports, the house where al-Zawahiri was targeted belonged to the Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Following the attack, Haqqani, accompanied by a big convoy of civilians, went to Charkh district in Logar to stay safe from a possible attack. He moved to other districts of the province later.
The question is if Sirajuddin Haqqani was involved in giving sanctuary to al-Zawahiri, will he return to Kabul and will he remain a minister? Will he be able to roam freely?
Another question is whether Sirajuddin Haqqani with Gen. Bajwa’s mediation is seeking rapprochement of his relations with the US and removal of his name from the black list and whether he wants to achieve this on his own by sharing information about Aiman al-Zawahiri.
It is worth mentioning that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri’s sons have had trips and meetings over the last year with the Taliban leaders in Kabul.
The second possibility can be that only Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Haqqani network have been involved in giving sanctuary to Aiman al-Zawahiri in Kabul. Based on this possibility, the Quetta council led by Mullah Baradar, as well as Mullah Yaqub, who from one side is trying to strengthen the relations with the US created in Doha to provide the ground for the Taliban recognition ahead of the UN assembly in September, and on the other hand, reduce the increasing power of Sirajuddin Haqqani, might have shared the information on al-Qaeda leaders’ whereabouts with the United States to hunt two targets at once.
In one perception, by this move, the Loy Kandahar Taliban, or the Taliban of the great Kandahar, have tried to isolate Siraj Haqqani and the Haqqani network that has never sufficiently obeyed the Quetta council and deems itself the conquerer of Kabul and has practically changed into a potential ruler in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the Kandahar Taliban has tried to practice commitments in the Doha agreement.
The third possibility is a bit weak but considering Pakistan’s double standard policies in the past, we cannot completely reject it. Pakistan is on the verge of an economic collapse. To attract US’s economic support, the Pakistani military might have provided the ground for the US attack on al-Zawahiri by allowing the US to use its airspace or by giving it a base on its soil.
By doing this, Pakistan has once again used the Taliban as “useful idiots” to gain its interests. It has been seen in the past that whenever Pakistan is in danger it has presented a gift of such nature to Washington.
The United States’ ability to have the technical facilities and information about Kabul streets cannot be ignored due to its two-decade presence in Afghanistan. It can have all such information about big cities in Afghanistan, contrary to what it had in 2001. And by using these resources, equipment, and information, it might have conducted the operation unilaterally.
In this case, it will be difficult for the Taliban to regain the world’s lost trust in its counterterrorism efforts or pay attention to accountability for the people of Afghanistan and the international community. For sure, this will reduce the duration of the Taliban’s emirate or will lead to a white or bloody coup within its emirate. Incidents in the upcoming days will clear the air on these issues at national and international levels and it will be made clear whether it was a deal or it will lead to a confrontation.
Rahmatullah Nabil was a former director general of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, and a presidential candidate.