Unmanned US strike aircraft fired missiles at a Taliban compound in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal area of South Waziristan.
Three Hellfire missiles struck in the town of Kanigoram near Wana, a known stronghold of the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Nazir. Eight Taliban fighters and possibly some Uzbek fighters were reported killed, but no high value Taliban or al Qaeda targets have been reported killed at this time.
Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, was the target of the strike, a US intelligence source told The Long War Journal.
Kanigoram is a known Taliban stronghold. The US conducted an airstrike there on April 29, 2009. Ten Taliban fighters were killed in missile strikes on a Taliban safe house and a vehicle.
Fourth strike this month
Today’s attack in South Waziristan is only the fourth strike in August as well as the fourth since July 17. The last attack took place on Aug. 20 in North Waziristan. The target was Siraj Haqqani, the powerful military commander of the Haqqani Network. During the first 17 days of July, the US conducted seven airstrikes in Pakistan.
The US has shifted the focus of its covert air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas almost exclusively to targeting Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. Of the 35 US strikes carried out in Pakistan this year, 25 have taken place in South Waziristan. The next US airstrike will match last year’s total of 36 airstrikes in Pakistan.
Baitullah was killed in the Aug. 5 strike that also killed his wife and several members of his bodyguard. He was replaced as the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan by Hakeemullah Mehsud, while Waliur Rehman Mehsud took control of the Taliban in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan.
Background on US strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban networks in northwestern Pakistan
US intelligence believes that al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. 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. The US also has targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.
As of last summer, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. 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; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard unit 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 those 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 five 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 Shadow Army, was killed in a region controlled by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan in October 2008.
Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and a member of al Qaeda’s top council, was killed in North Waziristan in October 2008.
In 2009, US strikes have killed two senior, long-time al Qaeda leaders. Osama al Kini and his senior aide, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, were killed in a New Year’s Day strike in South Waziristan. Kini was al Qaeda’s 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 attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:
Aug. 27, 2009
Aug. 20, 2009
Aug. 11, 2009
Aug. 5, 2009
July 17, 2009
July 10, 2009
July 8, 2009
July 8, 2009
July 7, 2009
July 3, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 18, 2009
June 14, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 12, 2009
May 9, 2009
April 29, 2009
April 19, 2009
April 8, 2009
April 4, 2009
April 1, 2009
March 26, 2009
March 25, 2009
March 15, 2009
March 12, 2009
March 1, 2009
Feb. 16, 2009
Feb. 14, 2009
Jan. 23, 2009
Jan. 2, 2009
Jan. 1, 2009
For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan.