The recent clamoring over Afghan insurgents' decision to engage in "talks" with the Afghan government has obscured some rather important distinctions between who is talking and what the prospects are for those talks. Two of Afghanistan's most prominent insurgent groups, the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani network are both said to be participating in these "talks." But the two groups are quite distinct, with different objectives, ideological sentiments and partnerships with radical Islamic terrorists. These distinctions make any possible deal with the Haqqanis a particularly dubious proposition.
While it is true that the Taliban and the Haqqani network share the common objective of forcing the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan and favor the return of a hardline Islamic government, that is about where their commonalities end. Perhaps the most important difference is their relationship with al-Qaeda. The Taliban has many ties to the terrorist group, but it is the Haqqanis that shelter al-Qaeda's de facto headquarters in North Waziristan.
The Haqqani network's operations are distinct from those of the Taliban in several key ways. Their command and control, support infrastructure, recruiting and funding mechanisms are all largely separate. They operate out of Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency, just miles away from Afghanistan's southeastern border. Unlike the Taliban, a national umbrella insurgent movement, the Haqqanis influence is mostly limited to the southeast of the country, the same area from which they fought the Soviet Army in the 1980s. Although the network is currently led by the sons of the infamous Mujahideen commander Jallaludin Haqqani, who distinguished himself as a particularly effective anti-Soviet Mujahideen commander known for his high body counts, they remain a potent force. (The elder Haqqani was once described as "goodness personified" by former Texas congressman Charlie Wilson,) The Haqqanis have been responsible for the majority of Kabul's most sophisticated suicide attacks as well as the December 2009 suicide bombing of a CIA base in southeastern Afghanistan, the deadliest attack suffered by the CIA since the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing.