Zakir, an operational commander for the network in four Afghan provinces, oversees its training program which includes instruction on building improvised explosive devices and the use of heavy weapons.
The Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated jihadist group operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is one of the most violent terror organizations in the region. Since 2008, it has attacked targets including restaurants and hotels in Kabul; the headquarters of NATO's security force in Afghanistan; and the U.S. and Indian embassies there.
Zakir is the tenth Haqqani Network leader designated by the State Department. Its terrorist "credits" include a coordinated September 2011 attack against the U.S. embassy, NATO headquarters and other targets in Kabul. Sixteen people (including at least six children) died as a result of the attack carried about by jihadists using guns and rocket-propelled grenades in tandem with suicide bombers.
Personnel chosen from Zakir's training program carried out the Kabul attack and others, which included an August 2010 strike against two NATO facilities in eastern Afghanistan and a June 2011 attack on the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel which killed 11 civilians and two Afghan policemen.
In congressional testimony last year, outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen blasted Pakistan's military spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate, for supporting the Haqqani Network.
Mullen linked ISI collaboration with the Taliban to the June and September 2011 attacks in Kabul. With ISI support, Haqqani operatives "planned and conducted" the assault on the U.S. Embassy, Mullen said. "We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations."
"The Haqqani Network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency," Mullen added.
NATO plans to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 don't appear to have reduced the Haqqani Network's interest in targeting Western forces. Mullah Sangeen Zadran (who is on the U.S.-designated terrorist list for supporting al-Qaida and holds a U.S. soldier hostage) has just released a video inviting Kurds and Turks to come to Afghanistan to participate in jihad.
"We, the Afghan Taliban, are continuing our jihad while aware of the games and the aims of the United States, NATO and the collaborating apostates," Sangeen said. "Without our jihad they would certainly be able to subvert the Afghan people, too."
In a video released in July, Sangeen vowed that the fight would continue after the war in Afghanistan ended. "Jihad is not only in Afghanistan," he said, adding that "America will leave here in disgrace."