US airstrike kills 4 Taliban fighters in North Waziristan

The US killed four Taliban fighters in the latest strike on a Taliban camp in Pakistan's tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The strike targeted a Taliban training camp in the village of Ismail Khan in an area west of Miramshah. The compound is said to be run by Rasta Barkhan, a tribesman closely linked to the Taliban.

At least one unmanned strike aircraft fired two missiles into the training center, AFP reported. Five unmanned aircraft were said to be operating in the area prior to the attack.

The missile strike took place in territory run by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander who administers North Waziristan. The Pakistani military signed a peace agreement with Bahadar even though he continues to shelter al Qaeda leaders and fighters, and sends his forces to battle the US and NATO in Afghanistan. The last three strikes in Pakistan have taken place in tribal areas run by Bahadar.

Today's strike is the fifth this year and the sixth in 10 days. It is also the sixth strike since a suicide bomber killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer, in an attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. The outpost was used to gather intelligence for strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, appeared on a martyrdom videotape with Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. On the tape, Balawi claimed he carried out the suicide attack to avenge the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The pace of the strikes is unprecedented; the US has not conducted six airstrikes in 10 days since the campaign in Pakistan began in 2004.

The US air war in Pakistan has clearly shifted from South Waziristan to North Waziristan. Since the Aug. 5 strike in South Waziristan that killed Baitullah, 20 of the 24 reported airstrikes have taken place in North Waziristan, while the other four were in South Waziristan.

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US airstrike kills 4 Taliban fighters in North Waziristan
Jan. 9, 2010
US airstrike kills 5 in North Waziristan
Jan. 8, 2010
US kills 11 in latest North Waziristan strike
Jan. 6, 2010
US airstrike kills 2 Taliban fighters in Mir Ali in Pakistan
Jan. 3, 2010
US kills 3 Taliban in second strike in North Waziristan
Jan. 1, 2010


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

Posted by KaneKaizer at January 10, 2010 1:37 AM ET:

I've got to say, the pace of these strikes makes it difficult to determine which strike I'm reading about in different news articles. Especially when they're all in North Waziristan

Posted by Bill Roggio at January 10, 2010 9:36 AM ET:

KaneKaizer, I concur, and I will add it is extremely difficult from the telling of the story perspective.

Posted by KnightHawk at January 10, 2010 10:23 AM ET:

I'm just happy to see the increase in death from above. Though I wonder if this is just an attempt to generate news of strikes, hopefully this pace (or even more) can be sustained.

Posted by Zeissa at January 10, 2010 10:51 AM ET:

I was chanting 'airstrike, airstrike, airstrike' when checking this site after just yesrday ;). And I got it!

Posted by Jim Clark at January 10, 2010 11:08 AM ET:

LWJ naysayers often relate that you can't win a war based on these type operations but I think these safe and relatively sure hits are a great way to prosecute AQ and the Taliban.

The continuing and unrelenting decapitation of the senior members of these two organizations, will demoralize their rank and file members and show the futility of their cause.

I would hope that the US can keep the pace up and nearly flood the air over Pakistan and Afghanistan with Predators and Reapers. The more the merrier.


Posted by SWT at January 10, 2010 11:22 PM ET:

Has the video problem been fixed on these....are they now encrypting the downlink so the bad guys aren't able to see what the guy back in New Mexico or wherever is seeing?

Posted by WiseGuy1020 at January 11, 2010 1:02 AM ET:


As a far as I can tell the MQ-1s and MQ-9s only transmit up towards satellites and you would have to be in the path of that beam to intercept the feed. The downlink from the satellites to the ground stations has always been encrypted.

What you are refering to has been a problem for the smaller UAVs, such as the RQ-11s and RQ-7s that transmit directly to local ground stations. I believe all UAVs are currently being upgraded with encryption, however that is likely to take as long as couple years.

Posted by Nissonic at January 11, 2010 2:05 AM ET:

The question is long will USA (and its forgotten allies) fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As long as there is the religion in that area they will not stop to fight. Do you have to kill all of them to win?
Afghanistan and Pakistan are merely two geographical areas. In the future perhaps Yemen and Somalia will be
the new safe havens for Al quaeda and its operatives.
Will you go over there and fight them there as well?

The airstrikes at their leadership is the best thing. As long as they are accurate.
Some here say that since the terrorists aim at civilians so can we. Doesnt this make a very good propaganda tool for the opponents? They can use dead civilians as a cause to recruit more underlings into their folds. Think about it, all you get are more angered muslims.
I had the discussion here before that the underlings are lured or brainwashed into islamic terrorism. Some here say they do it by their own free will.
Ive already stated a lot of opinions about why they join up still you dont believe it. In fact I think that the human mind is indeed weak and easy to manipulate.

Posted by Jaydev at January 11, 2010 2:24 AM ET:

Any idea what US plans are for urban areas..i.e. Baluchistan.
Since US is already packing bags..its forgone conclusion Pakis are not gonna touch HQN+QST. Is there any strategy for Baluchistan other than intermittently swearing and flattering Paki generals and leaders. Btw, the Al-Jazeera video was scary..which shows..differences in AQ and Taliban are all in our heads..and they are playing good cop-bad cop with Pakis and US. Hope 2011 withdrawal doesnt end up as a script for 2012 disaster movie..!

Posted by Zeissa at January 11, 2010 3:27 AM ET:

Well, it's a great tool, but I doubt it can win a war... at least not without going to epic proportions that would be media suicide.

Posted by NCTalibanHater at January 11, 2010 8:52 AM ET:

The decapitation of senior leadership will also allow the more extreme fighters to take there place. This will further alienate them from the populace as their methods get more and more extreme.

Posted by Hiram Abiff at January 11, 2010 10:13 AM ET:

we special operators on the ground in FATA We need to flood the area

Posted by Wolfpack at January 11, 2010 10:15 AM ET:

We need To flood FATA with our special operators and starting taking these guys out to send a personal message

Posted by Bungo at January 11, 2010 10:37 AM ET:

These missile attacks are indeed a valuable tool in this conflict and, of course, we cannot win by this tactic alone. Eventually there will be some sort of negotiation, which of course would lead to dire consequences OR there will have to be a military incursion into these areas which I think would be completely justified. Any drastic action, like an incursion, would only come if things get really bad such as a massive terror strike in the West. For now it will be status quo for the forseeable future. I, personally, also wouldn't mind mixing in a few special Ops missions into the tribal regions to capture a few of these HVTs to try to get some high level intel as well as give the enemy something else to worry about besides just the missiles. I wouldn't worry too much about the Paks crying about it since they're not really a sincere partner in this thing anyway, plus I doubt someting like that would make the Pak national situation any shakier than it already is.

Posted by David m at January 11, 2010 11:09 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/11/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by kp at January 11, 2010 11:57 AM ET:

Wiseguy: "As a far as I can tell the MQ-1s and MQ-9s only transmit up towards satellites and you would have to be in the path of that beam to intercept the feed. The downlink from the satellites to the ground stations has always been encrypted."

No. I think WiseGuy is thinking rather link the folks who designed the system to start with.

The problem is the downlink is unencrypted all the way back to the base and its relayed by more than one sat. It's the sat downlink that gets intercepted not the uplink from the drone which is very difficult to do ... it's a small aperture terminal and a moving target.

You don't have to be in the same area to intercept the sat feeds. The video feeds are digital (come back in an IP stream) so you have to find the IP stream and intercept that then reassemble it. That's what the Russian sniffer software helps you do.

I think their initial threat model for this was along the lines of:
unsophisticated opposition - sophisticated opposition can shoot these down; small moving target with upward firing small aperture terminal is difficult to intercept; even if they intercept the signal it's an IP stream so they have to sort that out (security by obscurity). They failed to think about intercepting the fixed, strong signal sat downlink and even minor actors being able to sniff IP connections with off the shelf hardware and software and reassemble video streams for a standard encode. Perhaps in the original system design those links should have been separately encrypted?

Still it's not trivial. You have to find the drone downlink that you're interested in and view that video. And if you are intercepting the downlink data remotely from the site that's being targeted by the drones you have to communicate that information to the targeted people (that makes the interceptor vulnerable especially as they'll need to use radio). Plus how many sat dishes are there in the FATA? I'm sure the Taliban doesn't permit them so if they're spotted on recon images then they're "interesting" locations. Then again the sat downconvertors probably leak some local oscillator signal too -- in an area where they have no other sat dishes that would stand out like a sore thumb to the SIGINT folks.

The flip side is if you know the opposition are doing this then you can use it to your advantage if you deploy a few that have encryption in place and they rely on being able to see what you are doing.

Posted by T Ruth at January 11, 2010 12:35 PM ET:

You might find this article by Dr Farhat Taj interesting--i believe she is an academic based in oslo though originally from the area targetted by drones.

Posted by jim2 at January 11, 2010 2:30 PM ET:

IIRC, the Afghan resistance said something like, "We do not fear the Soviets. We fear their helicopters."

I wonder if they say something similar about the Americans and drones?

Posted by James at January 11, 2010 3:05 PM ET:

First off, Bill- great informative website. I find myself checking it 3 times a day.
i think this is a great pace, one which should be maintained for as long as possible. Maybe we can hunt in Arakzai and kyber as well???

Posted by Zeissa at January 12, 2010 2:25 AM ET:

Nissonic, your comparison is really disgusting.

There is no comparison between the historically unparalelled precision of western warfare that lead to minimal collateral damage and the specific targeting of their own civilians of moderate to right-wing Islam.

Posted by Alex at January 12, 2010 11:57 PM ET:

This post is linked on Frontier Outlook:

Posted by Tyler at January 15, 2010 1:02 PM ET:

AP citing multiple Pakistani intelligence sources reporting that Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, one of the four hijackers of Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986, was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on January 9. Perhaps it was this very strike.

At the time of the hijacking, Rahim was a member of Abu Nidal but it would seem after his release from a Pakistani prison in 2008 he threw in with the jihadists. Thats surprising to say the least, though after the Bellikaraj and Shaker al Abbsi affairs he would not be the first old Palestinian revolutionary to switch over to Al Qaeda.

Posted by Neo at January 16, 2010 1:20 AM ET:

Probably Ismail Khel 32.968 N, 69.690 E