Before the Taliban announced Tuesday that he was dead; before, in fact, he was reported dead in 2015; and indeed before he waged violent attacks against the U.S. and its allies inside Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani was a U.S. ally in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
George Crile in his book Charlie Wilson’s War quoted the Democratic congressman from Texas who championed the anti-Soviet fighters in Washington as calling Haqqani “goodness personified.” (Reports that he visited President Reagan’s White House are based on an erroneous identification of Mohammad Yunus Khalis, another mujahedin fighter who also later turned on the U.S.) A rancorous debate in the U.S. at the time over how and whether to support the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan ultimately was settled in favor of backing the mujahedin, the Islamist guerrilla fighters. Haqqani was among 10 mujahedin commanders who received funds directly from the CIA; money to others was funneled through Pakistan.
Haqqani, a fluent Arabic speaker, cultivated the Arab fighters who flocked to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. Through those years, he maintained these ties to them. It was these fighters who would form the core of al-Qaeda. “What makes Haqqani important is that he was always close to the Arabs, which means that he was always close to the Arabs’ ideological backing, but also most importantly, the money,” C. Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University who specializes in the region, told me. “So he becomes this really important conduit, and he remains close to the Arabs throughout this entire conflict.”