An unmanned US strike aircraft fired two missiles at the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal area of North Waziristan.
Eight people were killed in the attack and two more were wounded. The attack targeted a compound run by Ahmad Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, the patriarch of the notorious Haqqani family.
The Haqqanis run the Manba Ulom madrassa in the town of Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. The madrassa run by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The US has conducted several strikes on or near the madrassa since the fall of 2008.
Today’s strike is the first since Sept. 14. There have been four US airstrikes in Pakistan this month; all have taken place in North Waziristan.
From June 14 to Aug. 20, 11 of the 12 strikes took place in South Waziristan. One of the attacks there killed Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Of the six strikes since then, five have been in North Waziristan.
The shift to North Waziristan indicates the US is now targeting the dangerous Haqqani Network and also al Qaeda’s network, which operates in the agency. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the shift in attacks from South to North Waziristan.
The US has killed four senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in cross-border strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of August. Ilyas Kashmiri, the operations commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami and the operations chief of Brigade 313, and Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, were killed in a strike on Sept. 14. Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior military commander for al Qaeda who sat on al Qaeda’s military shura, was killed in an attack on Sept. 8. And Baitullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in a strike on Aug. 5.
The US has carried out 39 airstrikes inside Pakistan so far this year. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Fourteen al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in 2008 [see LWJ report, “US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda”].
The US is considering switching from a counterinsurgency-centric strategy aimed at defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan to a counterterrorism strategy targeting al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan using unmanned airstrikes and covert operations by special operations commandos [see LWJ report, “Counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will doom Afghanistan and Pakistan: US officials”].
Background on Danda Darpa Khel and the Haqqani Network
The Manba Ulom madrassa was established by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the renowned mujahedeen commander who has close ties with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. In the 1980s, the madrassa was used to train mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders.
The Pakistani government closed the madrassa down in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004. Since then, Taliban fighters and members of al Qaeda’s network have been known to take shelter in the madrassa compound.
The madrassa serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network, while the forward operating command center in Afghanistan is located in the village of Zambar in the northern Sabari district of Khost province, Afghanistan. The network is active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces.
The Haqqanis have extensive links with al Qaeda and with Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI. These relationships have allowed the Haqqani Network to survive and thrive in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of North Waziristan, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces.
Siraj Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, has risen in prominence over the past few years. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan and to be the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan.
Siraj is considered dangerous not only for his ties with the Afghan Taliban, but also because of his connections with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. On March 25, the US Department of State put out a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Siraj.
US attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:
Sept. 24, 2009
Sept. 14, 2009
Sept. 8, 2009
Sept. 7, 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.