US kills 6 in strike in Baitullah Mehsud's territory

After a relative lull in targeted airstrikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, the US has launched an attack in South Waziristan.

Reports from Pakistan indicate at least six were killed and five were wounded after an unmanned Predator strike aircraft launched two missiles in the tribal region run by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. It is unclear if any senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were killed in the attack.

The strike targeted a safe house in the village of Sam in the Ladha region. The Pakistani Frontier Corps abandoned a fort in Ladha after the Taliban made three attempts to overrun the fort this year. Pakistani officials said the military was unable to hold and resupply the outposts due to Taliban activity.

The US has upped its attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas in an attempt to disrupt al Qaeda and the Taliban's network of training camps and safe houses that are being used to plot attacks against the West and in Afghanistan.

Today's strike was the first since Oct. 11, when US Predators hit a safe house run by the Haqqani family in North Waziristan. Two days prior, the US hit another safe house in North Waziristan, where more than 30 senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are said to have been meeting.

US officials familiar with the Oct. 9 strike The Long War Journal they believe the operation was compromised by Pakistani intelligence, as the meeting was abruptly broken up just 10 minutes prior to the strike. Six low-level al Qaeda operatives and three others were killed in airstrike. No senior leaders were killed in the attack.

There have been 24 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined. Sixteen of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31. Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2008.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:

US strike in Baitullah Mehsud's territory kills 6
Oct. 16, 2008
US targets safe house in North Waziristan
Oct. 11, 2008
US strike kills 9 al Qaeda and Taliban in North Waziristan
Oct. 9, 2008
US conducts two strikes in North Waziristan
Oct. 3, 2008
Taliban: Baitullah Mehsud alive; US strike in North Waziristan
Oct. 1, 2008
Pakistan military fires on ISAF forces
Sept. 25, 2008
Pakistani military fires on US helicopters at border
Sept. 22, 2008
US strikes Taliban camp in South Waziristan
Sept. 17, 2008
Report: US helicopters fired on while crossing Pakistani border
Sept. 15, 2008
US hits compound in North Waziristan,
Sept. 12, 2008
US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,
Sept. 8, 2008
US airstrike killed five al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan,
Sept. 5, 2008
Report: US airstrike kills four in North Waziristan,
Sept. 4, 2008
Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan,
Sept. 3, 2008
US hits al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan,
Aug. 31, 2008
Five killed in al Qaeda safe house strike in South Waziristan,
Aug. 31, 2008
Al Qaeda safe house targeted in South Waziristan strike,
Aug. 20, 2008
Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban's 157 training camps in Pakistan's northwest,
Aug. 13, 2008
Six killed in strike in South Waziristan,
July 28, 2008
Report: Strike targets Baitullah Mehsud's hideout in Pakistan,
June 14, 2008
Senior Algerian al Qaeda operative killed in May 14 strike inside Pakistan,
May 24, 2008
Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan,
March 16, 2008
Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,
March 13, 2008
Missile strike on al Qaeda meeting in South Waziristan kills 13,
Feb. 28, 2008
Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan,
Jan. 31, 2008


READER COMMENTS: "US kills 6 in strike in Baitullah Mehsud's territory"

Posted by Private Finch at October 16, 2008 10:52 AM ET:

It seems the ISI intelligence agency is so full of leaks that there are few chances to take-out the top leaders of alQ and Taliban. At least the past few weeks have shown more ISI cooperation. The Marriott hotel bombing should have given the P- gov a wake-up call.

Posted by RW at October 16, 2008 11:42 AM ET:

The ISI has a strong history of being sympathetic to the Taliban. They have on a periodic basis given up Al Qaeda figures.

They do not take so well to taking down Taliban, especially senior Taliban. This concern is reflected in this story.

There are elements of the ISI outright openly supporting the Taliban. We need to bypass them whenever possible.

Posted by remoteman at October 16, 2008 12:53 PM ET:

RW, with all due respect, we don't need to just bypass those elements of the ISI who are supporting the Taliban, we need to kill them. They are equally our enemy and the enemy of sanity in Pakistan. In fact, I would much rather have the Pak Army identify these individuals and have them swinging from a gallows.

Posted by GME at October 16, 2008 5:51 PM ET:

Does this story make you think that field commanders who KNOW enemy HVTs are gathering somewhere must go through a chain of command that is compromised? It's starting to sound like these strikes are intelligence-driven, then intelligence-boggled.

If we are fighting an enemy who is creative and cunning, why are we not creative and cunning? Just some ideas: If an HVT is targeted by one of OUR people (not some untrustworthy local who will take money from everyone), then do things like use objects on the ground to signal when and where to hit the target. No electronic communications, just good old rock signals. We've got huge imaging technology. Why not use THAT to communicate? AQ and Taliban are fond of Land Cruisers, video cameras, and video editing software. Those products have to be purchased and serviced. What are villagers in these backwaters doing with Land Cruisers anyway? Why not track these obvious clues and trace them to their customers?

And what about the fear of the dreaded "collateral damage?" Can't we assume that every attack will be reported as having killed women and children by the enemy? Indeed, it seems that every attack is used as propaganda by the enemy, so why sweat "collateral damage?"

What about the phenomenon we read about were "militants" rush to an attack scene to rescue comrades and cover up information? Why not attack every follow-up gathering at the attack location. AQ certainly does that, don't they? Perhaps the militants won't be so inclined to rush to the site lest they become targets. That way, our own agents could study the attack site. There are probably computers, paperwork, etc. that we need. It is so frustrating to keep hearing these reports. Perhaps the bureaucracy and rules of engagement are making these strikes pointless.

Posted by JusCruzn at October 17, 2008 11:29 AM ET:

I just love those predators! Nothing like killing hirabi's by remote control. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI"S!!!