Conventional wisdom holds that the Haqqani Network draws its strength and resilience primarily from its bases in North Waziristan. Pakistan’s consistent refusal either to act against the Haqqanis or to allow the U.S. to do so has increased the focus of military leaders and policymakers on those bases. It has led some to conclude that the Haqqani problem is predominantly a problem of dealing with Pakistan rather than a counter-insurgency challenge within Afghanistan.
That conclusion is incorrect.
The Haqqanis do rely on the sanctuary they enjoy in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but that sanctuary would be meaningless if they were unable to project resources, command and control, and manpower from those bases into parts of Afghanistan that matter. The projection of Haqqani power into Afghanistan to hit targets in Kabul and the north relies on a series of infiltration routes into Afghanistan, as well as safehavens and rat lines within Afghanistan itself.
The campaign of 2012 and 2013 must dismantle the Haqqani Network and its support zones inside of the Afghanistan. The areas that the Haqqanis and their allies control are identifiable and discrete. They do have some active popular support, but they also maintain footholds through the intimidation of the local population.
Unless Coalition and Afghan forces deliver a severe blow to the Haqqani Network, that capable enemy group will likely continue to expand its geographical reach throughout the country as the majority of U.S. and coalition forces transition lead security responsibility to the Afghans and retrograde from the country. Partnerships with like-minded insurgent entities will help the network expand its range.
Coalition and Afghan forces must conduct a sustained, well-resourced offensive against the Haqqani Network inside of Afghanistan. This campaign would likely require at least two adequately-resourced fighting seasons. Consequently, it is imperative that the U.S. 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 woulf fail to achieve its stated objective of preventing the return of al Qaeda and affiliated groups to Afghanistan.
Addressing the threat from the Haqqani Network inside of Afghanistan is necessary, even if further action should ultimately be taken to disrupt the organization.
Pic - "Toward Progress and Stability in the Stan"