Abdul Haq (Afghan leader)

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Abdul Haq (1958-2001) was an Afghan who led some of the early fighting against the Soviets in the Afghanistan War (1978-1992), a nationalist rather than a jihadist. [1] A Pashtun, he was not a member of the Northern Alliance. During the Afghanistan War (2001-), he was captured and killed trying to lead an uprising against the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi said he was executed, on October 26, 2001, by the orders of supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.[2] An obituary in The Guardian called him an "astute leader", and one of the few leaders capable of creating a working loya jirga (multi-ethnic council).[3]

Robert McFarlane, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs under President Ronald Reagan, first met Haq in 1984. In 2000, Haq approached McFarlane, proposing against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. He wanted to do this, however, under Zahir Shah, the popular former king of Afghanistan, who was not supported by the U.S. According to McFarlane, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) refused the proposal.[4] He went into Afghanistan without that support. The Taliban said he was an American and British spy; The Guardian speculated he might have been betrayed by ISI.[3]

A U.S. House International Relations subcommittee questioned if the CIA had done enough to save him; CIA officials said they had warned him not to go into the area in which he was killed. [5] Earlier, he had denounced Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) interference with Afghan politics, and lost Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) support. [6]

He was a member of a politically prominent family in Afghanistan, with ties to former king Zahir Shah. His brother Abdul Qadir was an early backer of Hamid Karzai, who was rewarded with a vice-president and cabinet position, before he was assassinated in 2002.

After the Soviets were expelled, he was briefly a cabinet minister during the period after the ouster of the communists but before the Taliban's assumption of power -- but he left due to the internecine struggles, and settled in Dubai, where he was a successful trader.

The Guardian reported that when Haq first engaged in the fight against communist domination of Afghanistan, in 1977, he fought in Gulbuddin Hekmatyar faction of Hezb-e-Islami. He later switched to the faction lead by Yunis Khalis. The Guardian reported that his tactical skills and bravery lead to his achieving a remarkable reputation and leadership positions. The Guardian reported that Haq was injured twelve times, including losing part of one leg, so he entered battle on pony-back.

Peace efforts

In 1998 he became a United Nations Peace Mediator. In 1999 gunmen raided his home in Peshawar and murdered his wife and some of his children.[7]

Final mission

In Peshawar in 2001, he tried to get tribal leaders to join against the Taliban, as a mean of forestalling a US invasion. Neither the CIA nor ISI supported him, and Pervez Musharraf would not meet with him. His support came from a wealthy private American, Joseph Ritchie. When Ahmed Rashid heard that Haq was killed on the site where Pakistani militants had been killed by a US missile, he said he broke into tears, angry at the Taliban "who had killed a peacemaker". Rashid observed that with the deaths of Masud and Haq, the Taliban were killing off Afghan leaders of national standing; Hamid Karzai might be next. He observed that the ISI of the time had no interest in a moderate Taliban or Karzai.[8]


His elder brother, Abdul Qadir, became Hamid Karzai's vice president and minister of public works, but was assassinated.


  1. Steve Coll (2004), Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Penguin, p. 54
  2. M. Ismail Khan. Taliban execute ex-guerrilla commander: Last moment rescue operation fails, Dawn (Pakistan), October 27, 2001.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Abdul Haq: Veteran Afghan leader seeking post-Taliban consensus rule, The Guardian, October 29, 2001
  4. Robert McFarlane (November 2, 2001), "The Tragedy of Abdul Haq: How the CIA betrayed an Afghan freedom-fighter.", Wall Street Journal
  5. Barbara Slavin, Jonathan Weisman. Taliban foe's death sparks criticism of U.S. goals, USA Today, October 31, 2001.
  6. Coll, pp. 166-167
  7. AFGHANISTAN: Detention and killing of political personalities. Amnesty International (March 1, 1999).
  8. Ahmed Rashid (2006), Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Viking, ISBN 9780670019700, pp. 87-89