Review: Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Vahid Brown, Don Rassler

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly deep yet concise review of Haqqani balancing act — local, regional, global, November 22, 2013

This book is in our J-2 library in Afghanistan and while I have not discussed it with others, believe it is well-regarded. For me it accomplishes something I have not seen elsewhere: it explains the Haqqani, the second most violent and largest group after the Taliban, and it does so concisely.

What I particularly appreciate about this book is the coherent manner in which it examines the value propositions that have positioned Haqqani today at the local, regional, and global levels.

The author’s credit Haqqani’s emergence in the early days to two value propositions: first, the offering of safehaven in Waziristan; and second, the ability to deliver violence on order for the Pakistani military and ISI.

The authors conclude that Haqqani displaced Hezb-i-Islami HIA/HIG) because the Haqqani have had and still have a superior savvy of tribal politics which in turn led to their earning a larger share of the CIA money passed through the ISA by CIA. Above all the authors credit the Haqqani with being able to manage a nuanced balancing act across borders and interests.

Here is the meat, summary notes for those without the time to absorb this excellent book directly:

LOCAL Value Propositions

Centers of religious instruction
Centers for military training
Hub for Taliban cohesiveness and extension of the brand
Trusted supporting partner for Taliban effect and reach
Skilled manager of local relationships to assure logistics reliability
Trusted mediator

REGIONAL Value Propositions

Spolier and kinetic signaling tool
Diplomatic “office” to shape militancy and influence local commanders
Platform to shape Afghan political landscape

GLOBAL Value Propositions

Operational access and local partnering
Enabling media and promotion of Al Qaeda relevance to Afghan jihad
Information Operations master of the art:
— borrowed footage
— cross promotions
— guest appearances
— Martyrdom biographics
— Connecitons to jihadist media personalities
Brotherhood and safehaven services, come as you are

The book concludes with a nuanced view that I found absorbing. The book offers a model for evaluating personal, financial, ideological/religous, and circumstances cause and effect among non-state groups.

The authors end with the observation that as Haqqani videos in Urdu begin to proliferate, this is a clue, and the question, what will it take to break the cycle? On this point I would refer to the other book I was able to skim through today (time in Afghanistan is counted in minutes, not hours, for personal browsing), God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad.

I regret I could not give this book the time it merits, but in posting this quick review with my own notes for my own memory, I hope I am encouraging others to give it a good look. We simply do not do intelligence at the individual and sub-state level, still today, in part because we have a legacy system that was built to obsess on static state hard-targets. As I wrote years ago, we have a super highway between DC and Moscow, and several cadillacs that are fine for that highway, but worthless off the road. We need to melt them down and reconstitute a US intelligence community of thousands of jeeps, motorcycles, and bicyles, with a new multinational sharing mind-set. That’s how I plan to spend my next 20 years. Learn more at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Semper Fidelis,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
THE NEW CRAFT OF INTELLIGENCE: Personal, Public, & Political (2002)