Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan


Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.

A decisive Coalition strike against a high-level meeting of Taliban-linked insurgents on March 12 took place one and a half kilometers inside Pakistani territory, US military officials have confirmed to The Long War Journal. Several precision-guided munitions struck a compound owned by a senior member of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban splinter group that is based in the Pakistani tribal state of North Waziristan. The strike occurred shortly after multiple intelligence sources confirmed the presence of the group's upper echelon inside the compound. Several other high-level Haqqani commanders, including Sirajjudin Haqqani, had planned to attend this meeting, intelligence sources confirmed.

At 9:40 PM local time, US officials declared the group posed an imminent threat to forces inside Afghanistan and the call to strike the compound was made. After the orders were given to launch a coordinated strike, fixed-wing and rotary-wing air support along with Predator surveillance and reconnaissance began scanning likely insurgent attack positions inside Afghanistan. US military officials confirmed no women or children had been seen in the targeted North Waziristan compound or in any structures near it over the last five days.

Nearly four hours later, a salvo of indirect fire targeting the compound hit its mark, completely obliterating the building and killing an unknown number of people inside of it. Several insurgents working sentry posts around the compound were observed by aerial surveillance leaving the area on foot. Initial intelligence reports on March 12 indicated three "high-level Haqqani network commanders" were killed and that "many" Chechen fighters also died in the blast.

The targeted strike inside Pakistani territory is the first public announcement by US military officials confirming the coordination of a cross-border attack. The attack is said to have occurred in the village of Lwara Mundi, a flashpoint for clashes between insurgents and security forces, according to AFP. Thousands of pro-Taliban insurgents, al Qaeda fighters, and tribal militias associated with the Taliban operate unhindered in the tribal states of western Pakistan, especially in their stronghold of North Waziristan. Previously, the Pakistan government has denied Coalition and NATO forces permission to conduct raids against targets inside Pakistani territory.

The attack on March 12 was quickly condemned by the Pakistani military, which claims the strike killed two Pakistani women and two children. Chief Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told reporters, "We have lodged a very strong protest with the coalition forces across the border." The US military has refused to comment on these claims, but intelligence reports strongly indicate no females or children were present in or near the compound at the time of the strike. The Pakistani military has denied commenting if insurgents were among the dead found in the rubble of the compound.

One night prior to the strike, Long War Journal correspondent Phil Peterson witnessed US military officials call off a targeted strike following intelligence reports that women and children were inside a house occupied by a high-level insurgent commander. "I watched them pass on taking out some bad guys because they were in a compound with other people and there might also be collateral damage to the surrounding structures, possibly causing civilian deaths or injuries," Phil recounted in an e-mail from Bagram Air Force Base. "The intel was solid; they knew who the guys were and where exactly they were in the compound but they passed to get them another time."

In late January, senior al Qaeda commander Abu Laith al Libi was killed in a US missile strike in North Waziristan along with several Arab lieutenants. Al Libi was a top-tier al Qaeda leader and led the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which merged with al Qaeda in November 2007. He attended a high-level meeting among insurgents at a compound in Azam Warsak village in North Waziristan, a key al Qaeda-controlled village since 2002. American al Qaeda representative, Adam Gadahn, also may have died in the same attack that killed al Libi, according to western sources who spoke to Pakistani news outlets.

Phil Peterson contributed to this report from Bagram, Afghanistan.



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READER COMMENTS: "Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan"

Posted by mjr007 at March 13, 2008 5:58 PM ET:

Amidst the objections from the Pakistani military, what do these portend for our future involvement across their border?

Seems were damned if we do, damned if we don't. Sounds to me like we may be acting on such specific intel that the Pakistani objections COULD be fluff.

Are they objecting or are they in cahoots with intel?

Posted by Curtis at March 13, 2008 8:59 PM ET:

I wonder if they are now going to make sure there are always women and children with them. I think it sets a poor precedent to emphasize that so much. We need to let them know they aren't safe regardless of where they are and who they are with.

Posted by Samuel at March 14, 2008 2:14 AM ET:

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Fantastic job by our military and good job by the pols for allowing it to happen.

We must harden our hearts and strike the enemy anywhere and everywhere.

Posted by Jesus Reyes at March 14, 2008 2:38 AM ET:

How long before our supply line is shut down?

Posted by Rhyno327/lrsd at March 14, 2008 10:35 AM ET:

Striking targets inside p-stan is a must if the US is to disrupt AQ-T-ban operations. In the article it sounds like it was an attack from the air, but it could have been a number of different weapons systems. One thing is certain-it was a PGM. A missle launched from the MLRS system? Or a bomb dropped from altitude that flew into the target. Good job, keep up the good work.

Posted by KnightHawk at March 14, 2008 1:50 PM ET:

Excellent news, thanks again for reporting on it.

Posted by ArlingtonSon at March 14, 2008 3:16 PM ET:

Could this be a new tactical initiative to strike targets of opportunity across the line with complicit approval by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? Maybe ISI's double dealings with Taliban/AQ are getting a little heated and they need to send a message to the monster they created. Or, have we finally said F-you, we're proceeding in our best interests. Hopefully the latter but either way score one for the good guys.

Posted by Marlin at March 14, 2008 3:54 PM ET:

Ed Morrisey reports:

The US captured an al-Qaeda terrorist who played an instrumental role in helping Osama bin Laden escape from Afghanistan after 9/11. Mohammed Rahim now sits in a Guantanamo Bay cell after his capture, arriving there this week, although the CIA won't say when or where they caught him:

Hot Air: Breaking: Americans nab high-value Osama lieutenant

Posted by jeandon at March 15, 2008 12:50 AM ET:

Waytogo, guys. Some hero took responsibility and actually made a decision. This is the way wars are won most humanely, with efficient brutality. Our motto should be; shoot first, ask questions later.

If we want to daintily tipy toe around already disregarded boundaries, we should declare defeat and get out now.

Posted by JusCruzn at March 15, 2008 10:42 AM ET:

The President said it right after 9/11 "You are either with us or the terrorists". That statement does not make mention to being in any specific country. It means no matter where they go WE WILL HUNT THEM DOWN and exterminate them. It's just too bad they don't live by their general motto of wanting to fight to the death instead of running. This just continues to prove what COWARDS they really are!!! GREAT WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING TERRORISTS!!!

Posted by Rhyno327/lrsd at March 20, 2008 9:18 AM ET:

I cannot get the page on the article about the most recent strike to open. I will say this; the US is getting good, actionable intel. Wat kind of weapons systems are being used? I think its bigger than a Hellfire, and the drones are just surveillance platforms. A JDAM, or a laser guided munition can fly miles if dropped at altitude. A new weapon had been tested in White Sands...it is so accurate it can hit a certain corner of a building. I think Col. Tanzi is finally getting his wish. You can't run, don't even try to hide, iam pretty sure we will keep seeing this for a long while, striking deeper into p-stani territory.

Posted by Josh at March 24, 2008 11:31 AM ET:

First of all, great job with this item...very strong reporting! At the same time, this article was posted well over a week ago and I have been eagerly anticipating a follow up as to why the Haqqani strike was described as "Unprecedented." It seems that Pakistan must finally be openly complicit in this strike, and that could be the answer to my question, but why exactly was the Haqqani strike "unprecedented?" Please explain. Thank you.

Josh
NYC

Posted by MattDupee at March 24, 2008 8:23 PM ET:

Josh,

The strike against the Haqqani Network on March 12 was unprecedented because this marks the first time (to my knowledge) the US military in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for launching a cross-border attack against a known terrorist compound in Pakistani territory.

Although attacks of this nature have indeed occurred before, the military never confirmed being the ones who pulled the trigger...until March 12. However, other attacks in this area have been conducted in the past by the CIA, who rarely confirms their participation in such attacks.

The Long War Journal had extraordinary access inside the Bridge during the buildup and execution of this strike. So far, this is the only coverage of this incident from the military's perspective. All others are from the Pakistani side of the border and consist of interviews with local police officials, if there even is such a thing in the badlands of South and North Waziristan.

I hope that explains it.