US strikes kill al Qaeda operatives in North & South Waziristan


Khalid Habib from an al Qaeda propaganda tape. Click to view.

The US has struck again inside Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. The latest airstrike targeted a key al Qaeda facilitator who served as a bridge between the Taliban and al Qaeda. The US is also stating that al Qaeda operative Khalid Habib was killed in last week's strike in South Waziristan.

Today's strike in the town of Mir Ali killed an estimated 15 to 20 people, according to reports. Pakistani intelligence sources claim al Qaeda operative Abu Kasha was killed in the attack. The reports have not been confirmed.

Kasha was an Iraqi national who operated in the Mir Ali region. In January 2007, an American military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Abu Kasha was the key link between al Qaeda's Shura Majlis -- main Shura or consultive body -- and the Taliban.

His responsibilities have expanded to assisting in facilitating al Qaeda external operations against the West, a senior US military intelligence official told told The Long War Journal today.

Kasha commanded two local Pakistani commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar. These men administer al Qaeda's network in Mir Ali. Kasha had a working relationship and close communication with the Uzbek terror groups, including the Islamic Jihad Group run by Najimuddin al Uzbeki, who also operates out of North Waziristan.

US intelligence believes Khalid Habib was killed in last week's strikes

Last week's airstrike in North Waziristan has netted a senior al Qaeda leader, according to US intelligence sources. A senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Khalid's death was "very likely." Sources were skeptical of the early reports of Habib's death.

Yesterday, Los Angeles Times reported that intelligence officials said Khalid was believed dead. Today, sources told ABC News that "the US now has evidence that Khalid Habib was killed."

Habib served as the commander of al Qaeda's paramilitary forces in Pakistan's tribal areas. This responsibility would placed him in charge of al Qaeda's notorious 055 Brigade and the other Arab and foreign brigades that have formed in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Habib also assisted in al Qaeda's external operations aimed at the US and Europe. "US officials have detected advanced efforts in the Waziristan area by Habib and others to send terror teams to the US and Europe," ABC News reported. "A number of suspected European and American recruits have been spotted in the area, officials have reported."

At least two Western members of al Qaeda have been killed in the recent spate of attacks. Two men carrying Canadian passports were killed in a US strike on al Qaeda safe house strike in South Waziristan on Aug. 30.

Habib has been described as "one of the five or six most capable, most experienced terrorists in the world." But he is not al Qaeda's "fourth-ranking person in the Qaeda hierarchy," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

"The numbering of al Qaeda leaders beyond Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri is wrong," the source said. The numbering of al Qaeda leaders "was done at a time when we didn't understand the group," the source said, explaining that senior leaders share responsibilities and the network is not hierarchical in nature.

Attacking al Qaeda's external operations

The US campaign in Pakistan is aimed at disrupting al Qaeda's ability to attack the West, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal on Sept. 19. US intelligence believes the next attack launched against the West will originate from Pakistan's tribal areas, where al Qaeda operates 157 known training camps.

There have been 26 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Nineteen of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31. There were only 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.

Four senior al Qaeda leaders -- Abu Laith al Libi, Abu Sulayman Jazairi, Abu Khabab al Masri, and Khalid Habib -- have been killed during the strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2008.

The first major strike against al Qaeda's external operations network took place in the town of Damadola in the Bajaur tribal agency on May 14. The missile strike killed Abu Sulayman Jazairi, a senior Algerian al Qaeda operatives who western intelligence sources described as the operational commander tasked with planning attacks on the West. Fourteen others were killed in the strike, including several members of Jazairi's staff.

Jazairi succeeded Abu Ubaidah al Masri, a senior al Qaeda operative who served as al Qaeda operations chief for global strikes. Ubaidah is thought to have died of an illness. In addition to being al Qaeda's external operations chief, Jazairi also was a senior trainer and an explosives expert. These skills enabled him to directly train operatives for strikes in the West.

The next major strike occurred more than two months later in the Azam Warsak region in South Waziristan on July 28. The attack killed Midhat Mursi al Sayyid Umar, a senior al Qaeda commander who is better known as Abu Khabab al Masri, along with four members of his staff.

Khabab served as the chief of al Qaeda's weapons of mass destruction program, known as Project al Zabadi. He is best known for running a training camp at Derunta in Afghanistan, where he conducted experiments on animals to determine the effectiveness of chemical weapons. Khabab was also a master bomb-marker, and passed his skills onto his associates.

Other airstrikes have targeted Taliban and al Qaeda safe houses in the tribal areas run by Baitullah Mehsud, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Mullah Nazir. All three Taliban leaders provide shelter to al Qaeda and sponsor terror camps in their tribal areas.

Jalaluddin and his son, Siraj, have close links with al Qaeda and are actively recruiting and training foreign al Qaeda members to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and the West.

Qari Hussain, who is Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud's deputy, runs a suicide training camp for children in South Waziristan.


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

US strikes kills al Qaeda operative in North Waziristan
Oct. 31, 2008
US targets Taliban "facility" in South Waziristan
Oct. 26, 2008
US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Oct. 22, 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



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READER COMMENTS: "US strikes kill al Qaeda operatives in North & South Waziristan"

Posted by AAndrew at October 31, 2008 1:11 PM ET:

Great job! Keep up the good work to the men and women who get positive things like this done!

Andrew

Posted by Marlin at October 31, 2008 1:15 PM ET:

Here's the little of what information is available on the second strike today in South Waziristan.

A missile fired by a suspected U.S. drone in a Pakistani tribal region killed seven suspected militants, including foreigners, late Friday, a senior security official said.

Geo TV: Seven killed in second U.S. missile strike

Posted by don juice at October 31, 2008 1:25 PM ET:

hell yea get some!!!!!

Posted by JusCruzn at October 31, 2008 1:36 PM ET:

GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by Lisa at October 31, 2008 1:48 PM ET:

Goooooo get guys!
We are winning!
We are behind you all the way!
Tell them that for me Bill!

Posted by Marlin at October 31, 2008 1:55 PM ET:

A little bit more on the second strike today. What's interesting is that Wana is the summer capital of South Waziristan, so it has to have a fairly significant population. To strike in the center of the city would seem to indicate very good intelligence.

"Two guided missiles were fired at a house in the centre of Wana," a district government official. Another government official said several militants were in the house for dinner at the time of the strike.

Reuters: Suspected U.S. drone fires more missiles in Pakistan

Posted by jayc at October 31, 2008 2:01 PM ET:

One thing has struck me as abundantly clear; the US is not squandering expensive missiles on the ordinary Al Qaeda foot soldier. Seems like we are getting good intel from the Pak side and are sending in the "cavalry" on high value targets. Or, as Hallmark suggests, "when you care to send the very best."

Posted by Albert at October 31, 2008 2:12 PM ET:

Important and meaningful strikes. But NATO also has to keep the door open for further dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan as well. Carrot and stick!

Posted by ST333 at October 31, 2008 2:55 PM ET:

"Important and meaningful strikes. But NATO also has to keep the door open for further dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan as well. Carrot and stick!"

Wishful thinking my friend. We've seen how "peace agreements" have gone with the Pakistani's and Taliban. I can't fathom what we could possibly say to strike any kind of peace accord let alone one that would stick. There may be certain elements in the Taliban that would accept peace but rest assured they are foot soldiers that would have no authority to negotiate.

Posted by remoteman at October 31, 2008 3:37 PM ET:

I believe that the carrot won't work until battle fatigue sets in. If we use Iraq as an example, it was only after four years of direct combat, accompanied by the lovely experience of AQI local rule, that the tribes in Anbar shifted sides. I don't see how targeted strikes on the hardcore soldiers is going to induce the same response amongst either the tribal leadership or the broader population of the Pak tribal areas. IMO, we are still a long way off from the time when these groups will be serious about the pursuit of peace.

Posted by John at October 31, 2008 3:43 PM ET:

Carrots and sticks only works if we have carrots they want, and if we can trust them to keep their word. In the absence of that, we need more sticks. Kill every one of these bastards every time we discover where he is. The recidivism rate among dead people is zero. Disregard the canard about turning the local population against us. They hate us anyway, and they are harboring murderers. We must create a relationship in which harboring AQ is equated with certain death and destruction.

Posted by Icon at October 31, 2008 7:24 PM ET:

A typo:

"His resonsibilities have expanded"

Keep up the great work and keep us informed. Thanks!

Posted by ED at November 1, 2008 1:48 AM ET:

THE CARROTT IS NOT GOING TO WORK.

IF THE INDIVIDUAL TALIBAN WANT PEACE ALL HE HAS TO DO IS TAKE HIS AK AND GO HOME AND FIGHT NO MORE.

FOR HIM THIS IS WAY TO EARN A LIVING , GAIN RESPECT, GAIN POWER.

A THIRD WORLD CORPORATE LADDER.

IT IS JUST A MIDDLE EASTERN VERSION OF A MAFIA.

THEY ARE JUST USING ISLAM TO KEEP THEIR FOLLOWERS IN LINE AND CONTROL THE LOCAL POPULATION.

TO TOE THE COMPANY LINE SO TO SPEAK.

BUT IN TRUTH IT'S ABOUT MONEY AND POWER.

WHICH IS ABOUT EVIL AS EVIL GETS.

THEY WILL FIGHT UNTIL THEY REALIZE THAT DIEING IS NOT MUCH OF A LIVING.


Posted by flyonthewall at November 1, 2008 9:05 AM ET:

The only rational strategy I've been able to discern, is that by "negotiating" with terrorist organizations, civilized governments establish clear, evidence-based knowledge that justifies acts of war. If we drop the ball, however, and the MSM doesn't disseminate the facts, the "treaty" violations inspire no public support.

**********************Just LOVE the Hallmark analogy.

Posted by TS Alfabet at November 1, 2008 11:34 AM ET:

"Important and meaningful strikes. But NATO also has to keep the door open for further dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan as well. Carrot and stick!"

Albert raises a great issue to ponder: how do we in the West approach an enemy that is so...un-Western in their thinking and ideology? Is this an enemy that we can negotiate with in any meaningful way? Is that what we mean by a "clash of civilizations" ?

When you read the history of Islamic conquest, there was little occasion for 'negotiation.' Three options were given to the infidel: conversion, tribute or the sword. That's it. I agree that AQ and the Taliban leadership and the hirabis in general use Islam as a tool to control others just like other tyrants throughout history have used religion, but understanding the muslim context of the enemy is critical to understanding how to defeat them. And their mindset is not one of negotiation in any sense that Westerners understand it (i.e., compromise, common goals, mutually beneficial outcomes etc...). Their mindset is power and domination, not compromise.

We can no more negotiate with religious fanatics than we could negotiate with Hitler and his fascist fanatics. As much as the pacifists among us object, there are sadly some types of people who are so given over to their evil ideology that death is the only remedy. Like a rabid dog. Sorry, Ol' Yeller but it's a bullet to your head.

On the other hand, even among the Third Reich there were a group of generals (the "Schwarze Kappelle") that made repeated overtures to the Americans and British to surrender the Western Front prior to the D-Day invasion in exchange for an agreement that Germany would not be dismembered. Considering what we wound up with in a Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe for 44 years and the horrific casualties of D-Day and the push to Berlin, maybe negotiation with those generals would have been a good move. Instead, we ultimately rejected their overtures. And this is where generals like Matis and Petraeus were so brilliant in Iraq: they were able to distinguish between the hard-core terrorists who had to be killed and the reconcilable Sunni nationalists.

Do we have any reconcilables in A-stan or P-stan among the Taliban? Not likely. Taliban seem to be highly committed, highly ideological mobsters as ED said above. But in time we may find that there are elements who support or go along with the Taliban for non-ideological reasons and may be willing to switch sides once it is clear that the Taliban are NOT going to win and are getting pounded to dust.

In the end, counterinsurgency can never be exclusively about indiscriminately hammering enemy populations.

Posted by Mark Eichenlaub at November 1, 2008 1:00 PM ET:

Bill,
I was reading that some Iraqis were killed in these Waziristan strikes. You heard anything like that?

Posted by Paul at November 2, 2008 2:33 PM ET:

Are you sure that is Khalid Habib in the photo, if I rememeber in the video it said it was Abdel Hadi al-Iraqi.

This is him:
http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/4976/jjjjvk7.jpg