Vahid Brown and Don RasslerFountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012

Oxford University Press, 2013

by Paul Knight on November 14, 2014

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Vahid Brown and Don Rassler‘s Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012 (Oxford University Press, 2013) is a meticulously researched and remarkably detailed exposition of the Haqqani network’s growth and ongoing importance among Pakistani militant organizations. Beginning with an expansive history of the Haqqani family’s background, and subsequent emergence as a critical lynchpin in the Pakistani – and by extension US – anti-Soviet efforts in Afghanistan, the book goes on to cover the Haqqanis’ present operations, including its involvement in attacks on NATO, Indian, and government forces in Afghanistan.

By shedding light on a group that, while sometimes mentioned in news media, is largely unknown to non-specialists, Fountainhead of Jihad is a major scholarly contribution to the subject of South Asian extremism. The book is in large part based on fascinating primary source material, much of it gleaned from seized documents contained in the US military’s HARMONY database, and media produced by the Haqqanis and other militant actors. Those interested in Pakistani intelligence’s relationship to extremism, the past and future of militancy in South Asia, and  terrorist modus operandi more generally, will all benefit from a close reading of Fountainhead of Jihad. After reading the book, I also believe that some familiarity with the Haqqani network is a prerequisite to understand the emergence and continued existence of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. While insurgency rages on in Syria and Iraq, and attention on South Asian terrorism has waned somewhat, I have little doubt that the Haqqanis will continue to be a key actor in the “Great Game” between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India long after the demise of ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusrah, and other more recent additions to the Sunni militant scene. Among both scholars and practitioners, the counter-terrorism community would be well advised to have a thorough understanding of the Haqqanis, and I suspect there is no better source to acquire this understanding from than Fountainhead of Jihad.

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