US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan
After a one-week lull, the US has struck an al Qaeda training camp inside Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.
US unmanned Predator aircraft fired four missiles into a camp in the village of Kumsham in North Waziristan, AFP reported. Up to 14 people have been reported to have been killed.
"The strike successfully destroyed the camp," one source told AFP. "The militants were using the facility for training," another source said.
Seven al Qaeda operatives and one local Taliban commander was killed in the attack, sources told the news agency. But there is no indication that senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were killed in the strike.
The attack occurred in the Wazir tribal areas right along the border with South Waziristan. This is likely an area run by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. He shelters al Qaeda fighters, operates training camps in his tribal areas, and sends his fighters into Afghanistan to fight Coalition forces.
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, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal in August.
There have been 28 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-one of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31. There were only 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.
The strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas have disrupted al Qaeda and the Taliban's operations, but will not dislodge the groups from power in the region, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
"They are keeping their heads down, they are distrustful of those outside their inner circle," the official said. The Taliban executed local tribesmen for spying for the US after one of the recent strikes.
"We can impact [al Qaeda and the Taliban's] current operations and make life difficult for them, but these strikes won't serve to defeat them."
Strikes hit al Qaeda's senior leadership
Today's attack is the first since General David Petraeus assumed leadership of the US Central Command. General Petraeus visited Pakistan earlier this week and was urged by Pakistan's prime minister, president, and military leadership to halt the strikes.
"Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counter-productive and difficult to explain by a democratically elected government," President Asif Ali Zardari said. "It is creating a credibility gap."
But after his visit to Pakistan, Petraeus endorsed the strikes, calling them "hugely important." He noted that three of the top 20 al Qaeda leaders based in Pakistan have been killed since attacks increased in intensity since late summer, but declined to name them.
Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been identified as killed in US attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas since late July.
Abu Khabab al Masri and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan on July 28. 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.
Khalid Habib has been killed in an Oct. 16 airstrike in North Waziristan. Habib served as the commander of al Qaeda's paramilitary forces in Pakistan's tribal areas. This responsibility 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.
Abu Jihad al Masri has been reported to have been killed in the Oct. 31 strike in North Waziristan. He serves as the leader of the faction of the Egyptian Islamic Group (Al Gamaa Al Islamiya) that merged with al Qaeda. This places him on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, the senior council of al Qaeda leaders. Abu Jihad is considered the chief of al Qaeda's intelligence branch and directs al Qaeda's intelligence shura. He directs external operations, largely in Egypt. He is also a prolific writer and a major ideologue for the terror group.
Two other senior al Qaeda leaders have been confirmed killed in strikes earlier this year. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan in January. Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda's external operations chief, was killed in a strike in Bajaur in March.
Other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been rumored to have been killed or wounded in recent strikes. Taliban leader Mullah Nazir was wounded in last week's strike in South Waziristan. Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was also targeted in the strike that wounded Nazir. It is not known if Yuldashev was among those killed. Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda facilitator and financier in North Waziristan, was also reported killed in another attack. His death has not been confirmed.
US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:
• US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan,
Nov. 7, 2008
• US Predators strike again in Waziristan,
Oct. 31, 2008
• US strikes kill al Qaeda operatives in North & South 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