US airstrike kills 4 Taliban in North Waziristan


The US has killed four Taliban fighters in just the second airstrike in Pakistan's tribal areas this month.

Unmanned aircraft, likely remotely piloted Predator or Reaper drones, hit a Taliban compound in the village of Shanakhora, which lies six miles west of Miramshah in North Waziristan, with two Hellfire missiles.

"It was a US drone attack which targeted a militant compound killing four militants and wounding five others," a senior Pakistani security official in the region told AFP.

"The compound was being used by Taliban militants, however it is not clear whether there were any foreign militants or high-value targets," another Pakistani official told the news service.

The target of the strike was Salah al Somali, according to AFP. It is unclear if he was killed in the attack.

The region is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani family is led by Jalaluddin and his son Siraj, who serves as the military commander. The network is based in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has the backing of both Pakistan's military and its intelligence service.

Over the past three months, the US strikes in Pakistan have tapered off. Today's attack is only the second this month, and the tenth since the beginning of September. Nine of the ten have taken place in North Waziristan; four have targeted Abu Kasha's territories, and six have targeted the Haqqani Network.

The last strike, on Nov. 4, killed four Taliban fighters in the Mir Ali region in North Waziristan.

Today's strike is only the third since the Pakistani military launched the offensive against Hakeemullah Mehsud's faction of the Taliban in South Waziristan on Oct. 17. Just prior to the offensive, the Pakistani Army cut a deal with Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan and Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan. The military agreed to halt attacks against those Taliban factions and allow them to use the roads, in exchange for a Taliban promise to maintain neutrality while the fighting is ongoing and to permit the passage of military convoys.

In an effort to preserve its peace agreement with Nazir and Bahadar, the Pakistani government has denied that US strikes have occurred in the tribal areas. Instead, Pakistani officials have claimed that explosions at bomb factories were the cause of the deaths.

So far this year, the US has carried out 46 airstrikes inside Pakistan. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in 2008, 14 al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed [see LWJ report, "US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda"].



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READER COMMENTS: "US airstrike kills 4 Taliban in North Waziristan"

Posted by steve m at November 18, 2009 5:06 PM ET:

I am still waiting to here who they got in the last airstrike in early November. Bill, do you have any info on who they got, or at least who was the target?

Posted by AAndrew at November 18, 2009 6:34 PM ET:

It's good to see a drone attack after such a long drought. I hope we'll see them continue at their previous pace, and that we hit an HVT or two on this one.

Posted by Sandbum at November 18, 2009 6:48 PM ET:

I am so pleased to see that we (the U.S.) are now fighting terror with terror, and from a few armchair workstations within the Nevada desert. I am not ashamed to say that I am pleased to see these terrorists die, cry, moan, and complain about being attacked by the silent, invisible, and deadly U.S. drones, keeping in mind the thousands of innocent U.S. civilians who died at terrorist hands on 9/11, and especially those 200 or so "jumpers" who chose to leap to their deaths in New York on that day, rather than die in that terrible terrorist generated fire in the twin towers. "What goes around, comes around" certainly comes to mind, as does the term "Karma".

Posted by KaneKaizer at November 18, 2009 6:58 PM ET:

Shame. Could be because the Taliban and AQ aren't as active this time of year.

Posted by Tyler at November 18, 2009 7:43 PM ET:

I imagine a lot of these Predator strikes aren't aimed at particular HVTs. I'm sure we target arms caches, communications, the nuts and bolts of the networks.

Though I'm still curious about that Bajaur airstrike where we supposedly got close to Faqir.

Posted by Mat at November 18, 2009 7:54 PM ET:

Yeah, well if you look at the news pieces at the bottom, it looks like it's all for naught. Obama sounds more and more like he's going to pull the plug on Afghanistan "before he leaves office."

I can't say that I'm terribly surprised by this...

Posted by Meremortal at November 18, 2009 10:20 PM ET:

Khalid Sheik Muhammed gets a gaggle of attorneys and a trial for killing thousands while his comrades on the other side of the world get blown up. Why the different treatment? If we fly KSM to Waj and drop him off, would it then be OK to bomb him? Why not just bomb Gitmo and kill two birds with one stone?

Posted by wazir at November 19, 2009 1:07 AM ET:

Well mostly civilians die in those attacks n well most of ppl getting very happy here answer that if drones are the solution then why not target inside Afghanistan???? Bill talks here about terrorist going in Pakistan n they are in Pakistan if its so then Whats Happening in western Afghanistan??? Its spreading in all Afghanistan y don't they target inside ?????? North n west now central Afghanistan which is mostly forest there are so many places they can be inside Afghanistan a huge country double the size of Iraq almost

Posted by Spooky at November 19, 2009 1:15 AM ET:

Can you blame him? The new government of Hamid Karzai is a lame duck, weak, corrupt, and unpopular with the people. I mean, the only way we will win the political battle for Afghanistan is if we enact a plan to confederate the state with Kabul as the meeting place for each autonomous province's leaders. Whoever is leader of Kabul just keeps things organized. Its either that or the unpopular (and potentially dangerous) idea of installing a military dictatorship...and even that can't happen until the Afghan Army is at the proper amount of training.

Posted by Render at November 19, 2009 6:57 AM ET:

The Talib/al-Q aren't usually very active at this time of year. This year is different, this year they're extremely active on two fronts.

AFAIK, all of the drone strikes have been aimed at HVT's.

=

I'm a single issue voter. The War is the only issue that matters. I want a cookie for correctly predicting that this Commander-in-Chief was going to be a disaster to the war effort.

THAT
IS
ALL,
R

Posted by Ahmad Tariq at November 19, 2009 9:54 AM ET:

Drones won't work this way. They are increasing recruitment for leaders who survive in other parts of the Pak-Afghan border.

If drones are to be deployed, deploy them in one go, killing all terrorist leaders to eliminate their capacity to re-generate and re-recruit fighters going to different villages in FATA.

Posted by Sandbum at November 19, 2009 10:55 AM ET:

I've heard that we Americans are being called "butchers" by the Taliban for inadvertently killing civilians during recent drone attacks.

I wonder how these same individuals would refer to the 9/11 atrocities where thousands of innocent U.S. citizens died, while simply trying to live their lives in peace? As a victory I am sure.

In 1941, following the Pearl Harbor attacks, Yamamoto is quoted as saying that ""I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Yamamoto had lived in the U.S., and was familiar with this country, and it's people.

History repeats itself, and the 9/11 vs. drone attack situation is simply history repeating itself. If you stupidly believe that either the U.S., or the U.K.

(remember the Falklands?) will not respond to direct attacks due to world politics, you are sadly mistaken, and you will eventually be cornered rats in such a

place as the remote Afghanistan/Pakistan region.

The small number of civilians being killed by the drone attacks is thererfore simply irrelevant, in my opinion. My recommendation to them would be to physically avoid the terrorists,

and simply get out of the way. This should be an instinctual reaction of these people. During WWII in Frnace, you would not find any Frenchmen outside of their cellars while their town

or village was within a battlezone. Shouldn't these civilians respond in the same way?

Posted by David m at November 19, 2009 11:21 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/19/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by Bungo at November 19, 2009 12:08 PM ET:

Sandbum : You can hang out in my foxhole anytime.

Mat said : " Obama sounds more and more like he's going to pull the plug on Afghanistan "before he leaves office."

If it makes you feel better Obama said a lot of stuff that never came to pass. Don't lose hope so early.

Meremortal said : "If we fly KSM to Waj and drop him off, would it then be OK to bomb him?"

It is ridiculous isn't it. This administraton still can't decide if they're in a war or a criminal investigation. Note: Trying to make logical sense of a liberal's actions will only make you insane.

Ahmed said : "If drones are to be deployed, deploy them in one go, killing all terrorist leaders to eliminate their capacity to re-generate and re-recruit fighters going to different villages in FATA."

I like it! All Drones, Everyday, All day long. Sweeeeet.

Posted by ArneFufkin at November 19, 2009 12:56 PM ET:

Spooky: Had we waited for the Baghdad government to mature before the surge, Iraq would be in the same chaotic state today that it was in late 2006. The underpinning of a successful COIN is SECURITY. Security comes from boots on the ground. The American administration is using the problems in Kabul to rationalize their fecklessness and lack of backbone.

Posted by Bill Roggio at November 19, 2009 1:13 PM ET:

I'll say this once: Keep the political attacks to yourself, they don't have a place here. Future posts will be deleted without warning, you just received it.

Posted by Spooky at November 19, 2009 2:37 PM ET:

ArneFufkin-

Iraq and Afghanistan are not the same. The political and cultural history of a nation is important to take consideration of when talking about governance. So what works in Iraq will not necessarily work in Afghanistan and vice versa, politically speaking. We can have a surge and while we would win the all battles, we'd still lose the war because there is no viable alternative in place yet to Taliban rule, apart from the old monarch who passed away a few years back.

Posted by Viliger at November 19, 2009 3:32 PM ET:

According to an article (link below)
"Meanwhile the US drone attacks in the FATA region continue. Of 701 citizens killed in 60 strikes between 29 January 2008 and 8 April 2009, only 14 were suspected militants according to one investigation; the brunt is borne by civilians."

http://mondediplo.com/2009/11/02pakistan

The article itself is influential and worth a read. I suspect the notions here are getting some measure of traction in Washington like it or not.

The reduced drone activity must be part of a deal between pak and HAQ et al while their army occupies s/waz. So they they are all safer from drones for now and in effect the US is part of this arrangement.

Posted by Anonymous at November 19, 2009 3:44 PM ET:

As a Pakistani American, I say don't worry about the misguided Pakistani leftists/Islamists and ultra-nationalists who are concerned with the Drone attacks "increasing" support for Terrorism. Eventually the irresponsible media in Pakistan will realize they are providing aid and comfort to terrorists by deflecting blame from the trule culprits to India, Israel or the other imaginary enemies of Pakistan waging war with radicalized suicide bombers as their proxies. The media - like the Pakistani government knows firsthand - will eventually learn that the dogs they are inadvertently supporting now will eventually turn against them as well.
-Patriotic for America and Pakistan

Posted by ramsis at November 19, 2009 3:51 PM ET:

Drones are an effective weapon when used in concert with ground forces and good intel however alone they have many limitations. the reason you hear of so many more strikes in pakistan and not in afghanistan has more to do with the limited options that U.S forces have in pakistan in dealing with AQ there. Unfortunatly the current administration has no desire to fight this war in a effective manner within afghanistan nor has he made any attempt to foster the proper conditions to achieve political reform within Kabul.

Posted by Bill Roggio at November 19, 2009 4:53 PM ET:

Viliger,

The author should try citing the so-called "study." The numbers he used came from a Pakistani news report and is absolutely false.

I've tracked every single strike. You can see the results of our study here:

http://www.longwarjournal.org/multimedia/2009/10/updated_statistics_for_us_stri.php

Posted by DANNY at November 19, 2009 5:42 PM ET:

Bravo Bill for that last comment. Just because someone says they have made a study don't make it true. I believe your study is more aligned with reality. Just MOHO. It's like saying in Israel's war against the Hamas, Israel they only killed civilians. Right... oh it's fact "someone" said it was true.

Posted by Bungo at November 19, 2009 8:02 PM ET:

I was going to say the same thing. Those numbers are absurd.

More importantly, I wish someone with actual knowledge could describe the targeting methods we're using for the drones. Are we using CIA paid Pak agents? Are we using American Spec Forces? Are we using Pak intelligence services? Are we using TaliQueda traitors? A combination of some or all of the above?

Posted by ArneFufkin at November 19, 2009 9:41 PM ET:

Spooky: I appreciate your take and agree completely that the cultural and historic landscape of locally ruled Af/Pak is very different than the centrally (though despotic) ruled Iraq. My point is this: Iraq turned around in Al Anbar with the "awakening" and at that point in time the Sunnis were so alienated from the Shia governing in Baghdad that less than 5% of the people in Fallujah, Ramadi, Baquba etc. even bothered to vote in the 2005 national elections!

Today???? Sunnis are engaged and I will bet that Anbar has 80% or better voter turnout in January (or whenever after the latest imbroglio).

My point is this: When Sunnis in Anbar understood who their REAL enemy was - murderous Al Qaeda and their Baathist pervert enablers - they turned on them the nanosecond they felt secure enough to do so. Their political strength is NOW, then it was survival and only when they didn't fear retribution did they shout "enough of this murder and mayhem!"

Security comes FIRST in COIN. It does. I take the optimistic approach that Afghans want to be free and prosperous and secure to raise their families in their peaceful Islamic faith, like any other human being alive.

The Anbar awakening was a meeting of a wonderful Army colonel and several heroic Sunni sheiks who had enough of Wahabbist butchery in their communities. They asked Colonel MacFarland "Are you staying, or are you going?" MacFarland ordered several Abrams, Bradleys and fire squads to protect those Sheiks. We are still there today and Iraq is progressing toward a historic turnaround of human success.

Afghans of courage and faith today are going "Are the Americans staying, or are they going???" They hear only their own echo. Tragedy in real time.

Posted by Zeissa at November 20, 2009 12:14 AM ET:

I personally believe that Roggio is wrong. 30% civilians is the upper limit, if you include combat support troops and familial support.

Ah... Pakistani American... I commend you, if only this comes true. I do not think it will though. Pakistan has advanced technology, but its culture and some of its education is distinctly pre 2'nd millenium, and established as an Islamic state it is inherently conservative as the Koran came straight from Allah.

Such fundamentals take centuries to change without occupation and reeducation or an internal cultural collapse.

Viliger, I'm sure it's an influental news article, but then again the world's average IQ is 100 points. A sadly depressing state that leads people to read stuff and believe it without proper synchronization. In fact there's a study that has revealed that knowledge and knowledge of whether one has knowledge is inextricably linked.
What the article basically wants to say is 'the US butchers 700 for 14 who might not even be terrorists' = the US likes to kill Pakistanis (for no reason at all).
So either the US is more incompetent than the Pakistani military, the US is fond of genocide or the article is one big lie.

Posted by Viliger at November 20, 2009 10:23 AM ET:

Bill, thanks for your response.

There was another suspect statement in that article...something about the Americans giving India modern military and nuclear technology. The latter aspect would surprise me unless its related to civil nuclear energy use but that wasn't his inference.

Think this rather undercuts his whole credibility.

Be good for the US Govt to release more data on something that is so obviously visible. Though again maybe its a tough one to get precision on.

Posted by T Ruth at November 20, 2009 10:32 AM ET:

Anonymous, well said.

Its a great pity though that America got distracted by Iraq for so long and took their eye off the ball in AfPak. One can see that Pak as a country has paid a price for this lost time.

Posted by Suthima at November 20, 2009 12:21 PM ET:

As a Pakistani American
^
^
Uhmmmmmm.

Posted by Bill Roggio at November 20, 2009 2:54 PM ET:

Ziessa,

Actually, Alex Mayer and I believe 30% is more accurate. If you read how we put this together, you'd understand the method we used. Alex goes into more detail here:

http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2009/10/are_drone_strikes_making_more.php

Bungo, on the targeting, read this:

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/09/us_strikes_in_pakist.php

It is from a year ago but is still correct.

The short answer is: AQ's eternal operations branch, the Taliban and AQ HVTs. It isn't just one (the majority of the press focuses on HVTs and a good chunk of these strikes are aimed at other targets).