The Pentagon appeared to break with the State Department on Saturday on the relationship between the Haqqani network and the Taliban — conceding that there was “co-mingling” after the State Dept. had called them separate entities.
The network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is deputy leader of the Taliban and his uncle Khalil Haqqani was placed in charge of security in Kabul after the militants seized the city last week.
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Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked by Fox News about whether the U.S. considered the Taliban and the Haqqani network “separate entities.” State Dept. Press Secretary Ned Price had described them as such the day before when asked if the security coordination with the Taliban extended to the Haqqani network.
“No, it does not,” Price said on Friday. “The Taliban and the Haqqani Network are separate entities.”
On Saturday, Kirby initially said he wasn’t going to offer a characterization of the Taliban or Haqqani. He was then pressed on the fact Haqqani is deputy leader of the Taliban and also has a $10 million bounty on his head.
“We know that there is a certain amount of commingling here. I mean, there’s a marbling, if you will, of Taliban and Haqqani,” he said, but said he was pushing back on the relevance of that to the evacuation out of Kabul.
The U.S. designated the network a terror group in 2012 and has been linked to bombings and other attacks — and also has ties to al Qaeda.
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The group had also attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2011 and is blamed for “the largest truck bomb ever built,” a 61,500-pound device intercepted by Afghan security forces in 2013.
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“The Haqqanis expose the lie that there is a line between Taliban and other jihadist groups, especially al Qaeda,” retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a Trump-era national security adviser, told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.
The Pentagon announced at a press conference that it had taken out two “high-profile” ISIS-K terrorists in an air strike late Friday, coming after the terror attack on Kabul Airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans.
Fox News’ Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.