Al Qaeda Shadow Army commander killed in US strike


A commander in al Qaeda's military organization was among 17 Islamist extremists killed during today's strikes in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan in Pakistan.

Zuhaib al Zahibi, a commander in al Qaeda's Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, was among seven Arab "foreigners" and nine Taliban fighters killed in one of two airstrikes in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Two other Taliban fighters were also killed in an earlier, separate strike in the Datta Khel region.

Zahib and the six al Qaeda and nine Haqqani Network fighters were killed after a swarm of five or six unmanned strike aircraft, the Predator or its more lethal successor the Reaper, opened fire on a series of targets. Ten Hellfire missiles were launched by the remotely piloted aircraft against a safe house, a cave, and a vehicle.

Zahibi was first reported killed by The Washington Post. A Pakistani intelligence official described him as "a well-known al Qaeda commander."

The strikes took place in a region where both the Haqqani Network and North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar have influence. An intelligence official contacted by The Long War Journal said the Haqqani Network was providing safe haven to Zahibi and his Shadow Army cadre.

The Pakistani military and government have refused US pressure to move against the Haqqani Network and Bahadar. Instead, the Pakistani military negotiated a ceasefire with Bahadar and his ally Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan that allows the military to move through their territories without being attacked as it operates against Hakeemullah Mehsud's Taliban faction in South Waziristan.

The Haqqanis, Bahadar, and Nazir all shelter al Qaeda leaders and operatives, and their forces operate against NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the military commander of the Haqqani Network, is close to al Qaeda and is thought to be a member of al Qaeda's military council.

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May 12, 2009
US strike targets Baitullah Mehsud territory in South Waziristan
May 9, 2009
US strike kills 10 Taliban in South Waziristan
April 29, 2009
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April 19, 2009
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March 26, 2009
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Feb. 14, 2009
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For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see "US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan".



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda Shadow Army commander killed in US strike"

Posted by The Big Red One at December 17, 2009 5:04 PM ET:

The cave is very interesting as a target. I don't remember seeing too many caves being targeted in recent times.

Can only hope Zahib's blast-yrdom will reveal clues about on binny.

Ho ho ho mo fo!

Posted by kp at December 17, 2009 6:03 PM ET:

How many Shadow Army commanders have there been now? Three in one year?
Khalid Habib al Shami;
Abdullah Sa'id al Libi;
Zuhaib al-Zahibi


BTW, what happened Abdullah Sa'id? Searching this site I see he was still commander in October 2009 but I didn't find an article indicating he'd been killed or captured since then.


Abdullah Sa'id was making pronouncements in October


Almost as high risk a job as being AQ "Number 3".


And I recall a cave being hit in the attempts to get Baitullah Messud. Probably in the same region (I didn't look up the article).

Posted by don juice at December 17, 2009 6:19 PM ET:

get some!!!!!

Posted by JT at December 17, 2009 7:07 PM ET:

I had the same thoughts about the "cave complex, compound and vehicle." Not only was this a significant strike (multiple physical targets), it included caves.

We have all heard about AQ hiding in caves for years now but have not heard about strikes against caves. Maybe the improved bunker busters are actually being used. Bodes well for the hunt for top AQ and Mullah Omar.

Posted by Bill Roggio at December 17, 2009 7:15 PM ET:

kp, he is A Shadow Army commander, not The. I was clear about that.

Abdullah Sa'id al Libi is still the commander as far as I know.

Posted by natej740 at December 17, 2009 8:06 PM ET:

Quote The Big Red One "The cave is very interesting as a target. I don't remember seeing too many caves being targeted in recent times."

Also it seems like a hellfire missile would have little effect on a cave complex. I've seen videos on liveleak of hellfires landing feet from guys and not take them out. It may be possible we used Reapers that carry bigger JDAM bombs or possibly "bunker busters" to take these guys out. If their tactics have evolved so can ours. I like how the drone attacks have stepped up lately after they slowed down for a while.....Also I am really shocked to see we had 5 or 6 UAV's over them that is hardcore...

Posted by Civy at December 17, 2009 10:39 PM ET:

I am loving the new "swarming" approach to targets. When the USMC first started exploring Distributed Operations they failed to understand the need to coalesce and mass on targets of opportunity they had discovered by dispersing.

I am struck by how the USAF and CIA are using DO tactics, albeit in the air vs on the ground, in fighting their UAVs. It is good to see this maturation in tactics where they are now coalescing to destroy massed targets, as well as dispersing to find these targets over far-flung distances.

The next logical step would be glide or rocket-powered bombs delivered from much heavier aircraft like BONEs, BUFFs, C-17s, C130s, etc. With PGMs, a flying outhouse is a suitable drop platform. No specialized aircraft are required. I hope the USAF is taking this into account in procuring their new "tanker" fleet. Troops, fuel, bombs, should just be interchangeable modules that fit in a shell bird.

Posted by Civy at December 17, 2009 11:08 PM ET:

Nate,
There are many different types of warheads for HellFire missiles, including one made specifically for the Predator. For example, a few hundred ball-bearings wrapped around a conventional HellFire warhead will make a mess of soft targets.

We have also made huge progress in hyperbaric warheads, especially in making them small enough to be used in shoulder-fired rocket launchers. They were used in Fallujah. We had a lot of catching up to do after the Russians developed these to a very high state as they proved so effective in MOUT in Grozny.

It is likely that, in addition to massed firepower, we are using highly classified custom warheads. It is also very possible the bunker-busting was done with a JASSOW warhead launched from an F111 or F15E at very high altitudes across the border. Once the rats started jumping off the ship the Predators swooped in and killed as many as they could. Having the timeline start with a JASSOW launch seems very consistent with available info.

Posted by Scott at December 18, 2009 7:42 AM ET:

Warheads on foreheads! Gotta love it!!
Thanks for the update Bill.

Posted by nic vasilchek at December 18, 2009 11:20 AM ET:

That a way!! good news to start my friday. 17, that's a good amount of enemy dead

Posted by David Malone at December 18, 2009 4:05 PM ET:

Despite some successes with these Predator attacks in Pakistan, the Al Qaeda high command remains in tact and anti-American sentiment continues to rise in response to these attacks. As demonstrated by past counterinsurgencies, the only feasible method of eliminating the Al Qaeda insurgency is to destroy its ideological appeal. If we turn a critical fraction of Al Qaeda supporters against the high command, we will destroy its safe havens, financing and recruits. Moreover, this ideological coup would prompt local militias to root out every trace of the terrorist syndicate in their midst based on self preservation.

One viable path to winning the battle for hearts and minds exists in the thesis presented at Binladensplan.com, which provides irrefutable evidence that Al Qaeda is an apocalyptic cult seeking to prompt the slaughter of four billion people. Al Qaeda's conspicuous imitation of millennialist prophecies and its willful provocation of American aggression clearly reveals the villainous strategy behind Bin Laden's war. Once the Islamic world realizes that Bin Laden seeks to kill four billion people, including hundreds of millions of Muslims, a crucial fraction of Muslims will view Al Qaeda as their greatest threat. At this point, America would have all the assistance it needs to destroy Bin Laden's syndicate, not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but worldwide.

Peace on Earth,

David Malone
(New York Times Climber)

Posted by Maynard at December 18, 2009 11:54 PM ET:

Nice self promotion Dave. Good luck with your plan. Sorry, but I think you are a little naive.
Hope your plan works, but until then carry on troops!

Posted by Bungo at December 19, 2009 10:19 AM ET:

Good luck with that one Dave. Personally, I prefer the old fashioned way : kill as many as you can as fast as you can ( as well as anyone who supports them ). Sure, it's a little messier but, hey. Remember 9/11 !

Posted by Render at December 24, 2009 2:57 PM ET:

Civy -

No F-111's remain in U.S. service.

Predator and Reaper are both cleared to carry the 500lb JDAM and the 250lb SDB penetration bomb. All of the Hellfire warheads are in the 20lb class.

I'm not going to pretend to know which is more accurate, but we've all seen multiple videos of JDAM weapons flying through windows and ventilation openings. One 500lb JDAM in the cave entrance is going to make a mess of anything near the entrance and likely close the entrance itself as well. Multiple weapons and multiple types in the same strike allows multiple flexability for multiple targets.

D.O.
RULES,
R