US strike kills 4 al Qaeda, 2 Taliban in South Waziristan
The US has conducted the first unmanned airstrike in the lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan since the Pakistani Army launched an offensive there in mid-October.
The strike, carried out by unmanned Predator or Reaper attack aircraft, hit a Taliban "hideout" in Tanga in the Ladha region in South Waziristan. Ladha is one of several Taliban strongholds that were the target of the Pakistani Army's offensive against the Mehsud branch of the Taliban in South Waziristan.
Four al Qaeda operatives and two Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, according to reports from the region. "Eyewitnesses said the toll could be mount," Geo News reported. It is not known if senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders were killed in the attack.
The Pakistani military denied that the US carried out an airstrike in Pakistan today, but US officials contacted by The Long War Journal confirmed the strike. The Pakistani military also denied that two other strikes carried out in October took place; these strikes were later confirmed, however.
"The Pakistani Army doesn't want US interference in their operation in South Waziristan," one offical told The Long War Journal. "Their [the Pakistanis' operation in South Waziristan] is winding down and they haven't achieved their goal: to kill or capture Hakeemullah Mehsud and Taliban's leadership, and they don't want to be one-upped by the US."
The Pakistani military has claimed that 594 Taliban fighters and 80 soldiers have been killed during the South Waziristan operation (five Taliban fighters and a soldier were reported killed today), which targeted Hakeemullah's forces in the Mehsud tribal areas. The military has ignored the Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Nazir as well as the Haqqanis and Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan.
Al Qaeda fighters are known to have harbored in the Ladha region in South Waziristan. The US has conducted seven airstrikes in Ladha since 2008, two of which have killed dangerous al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.
Khalid Habib, the former commander of the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda's paramilitary forces in Pakistan's northwest and Afghanistan, was among six Taliban and al Qaeda operatives killed in an airstrike on a safe house in the village of Sam in the Ladha region of South Waziristan on Oct. 16, 2008.
Also, Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban, was killed in the Aug. 5 airstrike in Ladha.
Today's airstrike is the second in three days, and the first in South Waziristan since Sept. 30. Two Arab al Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia were among three terrorists reported killed in the Dec. 8 strike in North Waziristan.
So far this year, the US has carried out 48 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"].
US airstrikes inside Pakistan have tapered off since September, which saw six attacks. There have been only two airstrikes in October, two in November, and two so far this December. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported killed in those attacks.
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Dec. 10, 2009
• US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan
Dec. 8, 2009
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Nov. 18, 2009
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• US aircraft strike in North and South Waziristan
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Sept. 24, 2009
• Two al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike
Sept. 14, 2009
• 12 killed in second US strike in North Waziristan
Sept. 8, 2009
• Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike
Sept. 7, 2009
• US strikes Taliban compound in South Waziristan, 8 killed
Aug. 27, 2009
• US Predators target the Haqqanis in North Waziristan
Aug. 20, 2009
• US kills 14 in strike on Taliban training camp in South Waziristan
Aug. 11, 2009
• Baitullah Mehsud's wife killed in Predator attack
Aug. 5, 2009
• US Predator strikes in North Waziristan, kills 5
July 17, 2009
• US strikes Taliban communications center in South Waziristan
July 10, 2009
• US kills 25 Taliban in second Predator strike in South Waziristan
July 8, 2009
• US Predator strike on Taliban camp kills 8 in South Waziristan
July 8, 2009
• US Predator strike kills 14 Taliban in South Waziristan
July 7, 2009
• 13 Taliban fighters killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan
July 3, 2009
• Scores of Taliban killed in second US strike in South Waziristan
June 23, 2009
• Six killed in US Predator attack in South Waziristan
June 23, 2009
• US strikes target Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan
June 18, 2009
• US kills 5 in South Waziristan strike
June 14, 2009
• US strikes Taliban, al Qaeda in North Waziristan
May 16, 2009
• US strikes again in South Waziristan
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
• US airstrike targets Taliban training camp in South Waziristan
April 19, 2009
• US Predator kills four in South Waziristan strike
April 8, 2009
• US strikes Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
April 4, 2009
• US launches first strike in Arakzai tribal agency
April 1, 2009
• Latest US strike targets al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan
March 26, 2009
• US airstrike kills 8 in Baitullah Mehsud's hometown
March 25, 2009
• US launches second strike outside of Pakistan's tribal areas
March 15, 2009
• US missile strike in Kurram agency kills 14
March 12, 2009
• US airstrike kills 8 in South Waziristan
March 1, 2009
• US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30
Feb. 16, 2009
• US Predator strike in South Waziristan kills 25
Feb. 14, 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 4 al Qaeda operatives in South Waziristan strike
Jan. 1, 2009
For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see "US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan".