KABUL, Afghanistan — The attack was little reported at the time. A suicide bombing on March 3 killed two NATO soldiers and two Afghan civilians and wounded 19 others in an American military base.
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Images from a Taliban DVD show an explosion from a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan on March 3.
Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose group claimed responsibility for the attack.
It was only weeks later, when Taliban militants put out a propaganda DVD, that the implications of the attack became clear. The DVD shows an enormous explosion, with shock waves rippling out far beyond the base. As a thick cloud of dust rises, the face of Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Taliban commander who presents one of the biggest threats to NATO and United States forces, appears. He taunts his opponents and derides rumors of his demise.
“Now as you see I am still alive,” he says.
The deadly attack demonstrates the persistence of the Afghan insurgency and the way former mujahedeen leaders, like Maulavi Haqqani, combine tactics and forces with Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups.
As a renewed sense of crisis grips the war here, fueled by reports on Monday that Taliban had overrun districts in southern Afghanistan after a huge jailbreak last week, these new networks have given the insurgents a broader pool of recruits and added power and sophistication to their attacks, American military officials say.
The bomber in the March attack, for instance, turned out to be a German citizen of Turkish origin who was trained in Pakistan, according to European officials in Kabul.
The combined terrorist-insurgent networks have flourished from sanctuaries in Pakistan. In a sign of the increasing frustration of the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, with the challenges to his government, he threatened on Sunday to send Afghan troops into Pakistan to hit militant leaders who have vowed to continue a jihad in Afghanistan.
The combination of sanctuary in Pakistan, deep links on both sides of the border and steady support from Arab and other jihadist networks has made Maulavi Haqqani a formidable threat to the stability of Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network is suspected of being behind three large vehicle suicide bombings in eastern Afghanistan this year, the latest on June 4.
In addition, Afghan security officials say one of his senior lieutenants masterminded a multipronged attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed seven people in January, as well as the assassination attempt on Mr. Karzai in April.
A quarter-century ago, Maulavi Haqqani was a favorite of American and Pakistani intelligence agencies and of wealthy Arab benefactors because of his effectiveness in organizing mujahedeen fighters from Afghanistan, Arab nations and other Muslim regions to attack the Soviet forces that had occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Today he has turned his expertise against American and NATO forces. From his base in northwestern Pakistan, the aging Maulavi Haqqani has maintained a decades-old association with Osama bin Laden and other Arabs. Together with his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, 34, he and these allies now share a common mission to again drive foreign forces from Afghanistan.
In Pakistan’s tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, Maulavi Haqqani and his son run a network of madrasas and training bases and provide protection for foreign fighters and terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda.
They also provide logistics and intelligence for attacks in Afghanistan, according to a United States military public affairs officer, Sgt. Timothy Dinneen, who is based at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and wrote a paper on the Haqqanis last year.
Another United States military spokesman, Maj. Chris Belcher, accused the Haqqanis of bringing foreign fighters from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan.
Maulavi Haqqani’s old ties keep his insurgent ranks flush with men and money, the American officials said, as do arms and smuggling rackets they control within their fief.
Meanwhile, Pakistani forces have been reluctant to move against the Haqqanis. According to European officials and one senior Pakistani official, Maulavi Haqqani has maintained his old links with Pakistani intelligence and still enjoys their protection.
Asked in 2006 why the Pakistani military did not move against Maulavi Haqqani, a senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that it was because he was a Pakistani asset.
Maulavi Haqqani has by now become so powerful in his redoubt that a Western military official who has worked in both Pakistan and Afghanistan said the problem of going after him was that the Pakistani military was not capable of taking him on and feared failure if it tried.
Pakistani forces accompanied by Americans raided a mosque owned by Maulavi Haqqani while searching for him in North Waziristan in 2002, but since then he has been largely left alone.
One Western military official said there was an unspoken agreement between Pakistani and American officials that United States Predator drones would generally be used in the tribal areas against foreign Qaeda members, rather than Pakistani or Afghan targets, like the Haqqanis.