US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan


Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and reports from the region. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.

The US launched two airstrikes inside of Pakistan's tribal areas on Friday, ending a three-week lull in attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda networks inside Pakistan. Twenty people, including "foreigners," have been reported killed in the Predator strikes in the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.

The first attack took place in the town of Zera just outside of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Three Hellfire missiles are reported to have struck a compound run by a local named Khalil, killing 10 people.

The second strike took place in the town of Gangi Khel near Wana in Sourth Waziristan. Two Hellfire missiles were launched at a compound, killing 10 more people.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time, and it is not yet known who the targets of the attacks were.

The town of Gangi Khel in South Waziristan is located in the tribal areas commanded by Mullah Nazir, a Taliban chieftain and rival of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The US targeted Nazir and Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a strike near Wana on Nov. 7. Nazir was wounded in the attack. Yuldashev's status is still unknown.

The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha. He has close links to both al Qaeda and the Taliban, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in January 2007. Kasha is an Iraqi national who operates in the Mir Ali region. He serves as the key link between al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council, 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 The Long War Journal in October 2008.

Kasha commands two local Pakistani commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar. These men administer al Qaeda's network in Mir Ali. Kasha has 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.

A pause in strikes

Today's attacks in North and South Waziristan mark the first cross-border strikes inside Pakistan since President Barack Obama took office. The strikes mark the third and fourth cross-border attacks inside Pakistan this year. The last attack took place on Jan. 2 in the tribal areas of South Waziristan that are run by Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

The previous day, a strike in Nazir's tribal areas killed senior al Qaeda leaders Osama al Kini and his senior aide, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. Kini was al Qaeda operations chief in Pakistan. Both men were behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.

US intelligence believes al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan's lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda's external network and decapitate the leadership.

As of last summer, al Qaeda operated 157 known training camps. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban's military arm, some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups, some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West, and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al qaeda leaders.

There were 36 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan during 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-nine of these attacks took place after Aug. 31. There were only 10 recorded strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined.

During 2008, the US strikes inside Pakistan's tribal areas killed five senior al Qaeda leaders. All of the leaders were involved in supporting al Qaeda's external operations directed at the West.

Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan in January 2008.

Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda's external operations chief, was killed in a strike in Bajaur in March 2008.

Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda's weapons of mass destruction chief, and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan in July 2008.

Khalid Habib, the leader of al Qaeda's paramilitary forces in the tribal areas, was killed in North Waziristan in October 2008.

Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and member of al Qaeda's top council, was also killed in North Waziristan in October 2008.


US attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:

US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan
Jan. 23, 2009
US hits South Waziristan in second strike
Jan. 2, 2009
US kills four al Qaeda operatives in South Waziristan strike
Jan. 1, 2009


For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in two villages in South Waziristan.



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READER COMMENTS: "US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan"

Posted by Meremortal at January 23, 2009 1:44 PM ET:

I'm glad to see these operation continue under the new president.

Posted by Tommy at January 23, 2009 2:12 PM ET:

A Pakistani official just told the Washington Post that he believes a HVT may be among the dead.

Posted by C. Jordan at January 23, 2009 2:39 PM ET:

I'm with Meremortal, Very happy to see that these strikes are continuing.

Good work troops! Keep it up!

Posted by JR at January 23, 2009 9:19 PM ET:

No rest for the wicked! Keep smacking them, as fast as you can. Great job guys!

Posted by Gringo at January 24, 2009 12:31 AM ET:

Are we ever going to go after the reputed 150-odd training camps?

Posted by Marlin at January 24, 2009 7:35 PM ET:

A little more detail on the strikes.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Friday's attacks has risen to 22, officials and residents said. Eight suspected foreigners are among the dead. A senior security official said Pakistani authorities were trying to determine the seniority of Mustafa Al Misri, an Egyptian Al Qaeda operative believed to have been killed in one of the attacks.

[,,,]

Citing reports from field agents and residents, they said Taliban had removed the bodies of five suspected foreigners who were also killed.

In another strike that hit a house in Gangi Khel village of South Waziristan, residents and security officials say eight people died.

[...]

"I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban." He told AP by telephone. "They say they were foreigners."

Daily Times: Obama ordered Waziristan airstrikes

Posted by Rhyno327 at January 29, 2009 11:49 AM ET:

As long as there is a "safe haven" for guerillas to run to, there will be an insurgency. Those 150 or so camps have not been touched by the P-AF. Do the PAKI's have an air-force? This situation can be compared to the VC running into Cambodia, and if we drive the T-ban/AQ out of A-stan, they will operate with impunity in P-stan.