Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan


A swarm of unmanned US aircraft pounded an al Qaeda camp today in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Five unmanned US strike aircraft, likely the Predators and Reapers, are reported to have fired 18 missiles at a camp and vehicles in the village of Datta Khel, a known al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold. This is the largest recorded US airstrike in Pakistan, indicating a top al Qaeda, Taliban, or Haqqani Network leader, or leaders, may have been present.

Seventeen terrorists are reported to have been killed in the missile attack. At this time, no senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported killed.

The US has ramped up the attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of December, after a lull in strikes in October and November of 2009, when only four airstrikes were launched. There were eight strikes in December 2009, and 11 in January of this year. Today's strike is the 12th this year. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]

Today's airstrike is the 13th since Dec. 30, 2009, when a Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent carried out a suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province. The bomber killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer.

Since the Dec. 30 suicide attack, the US has been hunting Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Hakeemullah appeared with the Jordanian suicide bomber on a martyrdom tape that was released shortly after the attack.

Hakeemullah was rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, but the Taliban later released a tape to confirm he is alive. Rumors of his death have since resurfaced, as unnamed tribal elders claimed Hakeemullah died from wounds received in the strike and was buried in the Arakzai tribal agency.

Pakistani Taliban leaders have since denied the rumors and claimed that Hakeemullah would release another tape to prove he is alive. But today, Azam Tariq, Hakeemullah's spokesman, backtracked on previous statements and said there is no need to release a tape, fueling suspicion the Taliban leader may have been killed.

"We don't feel any need presently to release a video, but whenever we feel a need, we will do so," Tariq told The Associated Press. "We are not going to fall prey to this trap and make our leader vulnerable to the spy network, and secondly, the leadership council has restricted the leader from speaking to the media for certain reasons."

Datta Khel is a hub of al Qaeda activity

The Datta Khel region is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan, administers the region, but the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadi groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, or al Qaeda's Shadow Army, is known to have a command center in Datta Khel.

The Datta Khel region has been hit hard by the US, especially in the past several weeks. The US has conducted nine airstrikes in the Datta Khel region since June 2007, and six of those nine strikes have taken place since Dec. 17, 2009.

A strike on Dec. 17, 2009, targeted Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council. Al Saudi is thought to have survived the strike, but Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army or Lashkar al Zil, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, were both killed in the attack.

Datta Khel borders the Jani Khel region in the settled district of Bannu. The Jani Khel region has long been a strategic meeting place and safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Jani Khel was identified as the headquarters for al Qaeda's Shura Majlis back in 2007. Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, has operated in the Jani Khel region. The US has struck al Qaeda safe houses in Jani Khel twice since last year. These strikes are the only two Predator attacks that have occurred outside of Pakistan's tribal areas since the US airstrikes began in 2004.

The town of Jani Khel is a known haven for al Qaeda leaders and fighters. Senior al Qaeda operative Abdullah Azzam al Saudi was killed in a Predator strike in Jani Khel on Nov. 19, 2008. Azzam served as a liaison between al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in Pakistan's northwest.

In addition, Al Qaeda is known to have deposited its donations received from Europe into the Bayt al Mal, or Bank of Money, in Jani Khel, according to a report at the NEFA Foundation. The Bayt al Mal served as al Qaeda's treasury.

Background on the recent strikes in Pakistan

US intelligence believes that al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan's lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda's external network and decapitate the leadership. The US also has targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.

As of the summer of 2008, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban's military arm; some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan; some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups; some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard unit for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.

The air campaign has had success over the past two months. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed two senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud is still unknown.

Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; and Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike. And Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf operative with a $1 million US bounty for information leading to his capture, is rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, although a Philippine military spokesman said Usman is likely still alive and in the Philippines.

In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in theShadow Army; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda's external network [see LWJ report, "Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010" for the full list].


US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan
Feb. 2, 2010
US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Jan. 29, 2010
US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 6
Jan. 19, 2010
Latest US airstrike in Pakistan kills 20
Jan. 17, 2010
US strikes kill 11 in North Waziristan
Jan. 15, 2010
US airstrike hits Taliban camp in North Waziristan
Jan. 14, 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 17 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



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READER COMMENTS: "Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan"

Posted by greg at February 2, 2010 1:28 PM ET:

... and it's a hard rain, a hard rain that's gonna fall...

Posted by Render at February 2, 2010 1:37 PM ET:

18 missiles on a single target? They thought something or somebody important was there.

OVERKILL
ROX,
R

Posted by Jenda at February 2, 2010 1:45 PM ET:

You seem to be missing the news of Pakistan offering to train Afghan troops here http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=53516 and here http://siyasipakistan.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/pakistan-offers-to-train-afghan-army/, for example

Posted by ArneFufkin at February 2, 2010 2:16 PM ET:

I hope that they did better than 17 non-HVT kills with 18 Hellfires!

Posted by Neo at February 2, 2010 2:23 PM ET:

Well, maybe they won't be supplying proof that he is alive. I'm not one to speculate, but as they say; "The plot thickens!"

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010955717_apaspakistan.html?syndication=rss

Posted by m3fd2002 at February 2, 2010 2:46 PM ET:

The scale of the attach indicates that there were HVT's. Initial suspicion would be the Taliban CC meeting to determine who succeeds H. Meshud. We will see.

Posted by Rookie at February 2, 2010 2:49 PM ET:

Nice...

Still, at 80.000 USD just a missile (data from internet, not sure how accurate), this strike cost was around 1.5 million USD just in ammo cost. To kill 17 low-level pond scum, replaceable tomorrow.

Economically, I think US cannot afford this price tag. Soviet Union was spending huge resources on military and eventually it's rigid economy collapsed. With actual US government marching towards socialism and the deficit soaring, it just might be a deja vu.

Incidentally, I spent 3 months in Pakistan several years ago. In the large cities, of course, not in the rural, very dangerous areas. 99% of population will mourn those 17, the rest of 1% will be killed on the spot if they dare to express their thoughts. That's roughly 148 million against 2 million. Now that I think about it, 2 million people being anti-taliban is a generous estimation.

Everyone can do an analogy with Nazi Germany, where the Germans were quite fond to it's fanatic government and approve it's actions wholeheartedly. Selective eliminations of Nazi leaders or 10-20 troops at once would not have any impact, only the utter destruction of German economy and huge civilian and military loses made them give up. Same with the Japanese. And these people were educated and quite rich, compared to other nations, so they could make a judgment relative to how much they lost in the war.

Posted by AAndrew at February 2, 2010 2:51 PM ET:

18 Hellfires at one target - one would imagine that there must have been at least one HVT at the location.

Hopefully we'll get some news soon about the targets of the strike, and that we succeeded in taking out more HVTs.

Taking out the HVTs at a rate fatser than they can be capably replaced should degrade the organization over time.

Fingers crossed on this strike.

Posted by KaneKaizer at February 2, 2010 3:42 PM ET:

Reports say the death toll could end up being over 30. Whoever was there, the CIA really wanted him dead.

Posted by Brian at February 2, 2010 4:42 PM ET:

"the leadership council has restricted the leader from speaking to the media for certain reasons"...on account of the fact that he is dead.

Posted by Brian at February 2, 2010 4:47 PM ET:

m3fd2002 wrote:

"Initial suspicion would be the Taliban CC meeting to determine who succeeds H. Meshud.

I could not agree more.

Posted by Civy at February 2, 2010 4:53 PM ET:

Location Map here ... http://www.maplandia.com/pakistan/f-a-t-a/n-waziristan/datta-khel-33-8-13-n-70-26-41-e/

I doubt they were all HellFire missiles. For deep penetration targets, they likely used the bunker buster 250 lb SDB. Same penetration (6ft+ reinforced concrete) as older 2,000lb hard-target penetrators powered with the new AFX 757 explosive.

Like most modern weapons, all the money is spent on the development. The actual cost to build a given unit is very low. What makes the cost high is they divide the huge development costs over a small production run. If the number built increases, that cost is spread out accordingly.

There's nothing in a HellFire worth more than a few thousand dollars (simpler, by far, than a 4-banger engine), so while the accountants might fret, it's not like we're going to run out of stuff to build them with anytime soon, just run out of taxpayer money to funnel to DOD contractors who gouge with ridiculous prices.

Posted by Mr T at February 2, 2010 4:56 PM ET:

I sure wish we would see 100 killed when we use that many missiles.

I suspect that the target was Hakeemullah (we can't see you now) Mehsud.

This might be a residual effect of the CIA finding out it had a double agent working with Hakeemullah. They don't know what was compromised so they might as well go all out and nflict max damage where they can. They might kill some people that got information from the double agent and they might also be using up the final information they were provided.

Both trails will dry up soon enough. They may also have some revenge in mind when doing so.

Hakeemullah may have been alive, possibly injured, and we have been tracking his movements and this time wanted to make damn sure we didn't miss.

Posted by KaneKaizer at February 2, 2010 4:57 PM ET:

Came across a couple more interesting reports.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Hakimullahs-likely-successor-also-killed/articleshow/5529206.cms

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020200778.html

Everything, in my opinion, seems to be pointing toward Hakeemullah dying of his wounds several days after the strike. Right now it seems like the Taliban are having a lot of trouble coming to grips with the situation especially after today's massive strike.

Posted by m3fd2002 at February 2, 2010 5:22 PM ET:

Cnn quotes sources who said sirajaddin haqqani was the target of one of the attacks.

Posted by BraddS at February 2, 2010 6:02 PM ET:

All that's left now is for Tarik to announce that Hakeemullah has decided to step down for personal reasons, to spend more time with his family...

Posted by Neo at February 2, 2010 6:03 PM ET:

Civy,

There are two places called Datta Khel. There is the cluster of villages you have pointed to. The other Datta Khel is in the Tochi river valley west of Miran Shah at 32.908 N, 69.744 E. I'm not sure which one it is. Perhaps someone could enlighten us.

Posted by kp at February 2, 2010 6:12 PM ET:

One might speculate that the large number of "missiles" used was in dealing with "squirters" from the initial attack. An interesting thing to know was how many buildings were hit compared to how many vehicles. This would be particularly the case if it was a big meeting. The Seattle Times/AP reports says "The aircraft fired 17 missiles at houses, cars and bunkers": each are plural.
If a lot of buildings were hit it might say something about knowing a HVT was there but no knowing which building he was in but being sure they're all AQAM owned (and very few civilians are present). Then hitting some squirters.
Perhaps they have deployed Gorgon's Stare? That keeps track of squirters and allows more to be hit.
The backtracking on providing a tape (post this hit?) might be that we killed HM in this attack but only wounded him before.
This was a late night attack -- do they meet late at night?
Finally on the cost of Hellfires: we use them to take out individuals and IED emplacement teams (2 men) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hitting a HVT or even a MVT is much better payback but any Haqanni Support or AQAM people particularly support, engineering, comms, PR, logistics or military AQ like the 555 Brigade and foreigners are even more valuable to take out. Anyone with skills or leadership value makes it more difficult for them to organize locally and globally. It also means they have to recruit more with the possibility of getting a CIA agent in their midst.

Posted by natej740 at February 2, 2010 6:13 PM ET:

The Taliban spokesman said they didn't need to offer proof of Hakimullah's death a day after he said he would have proof in days....That really makes me think we got him.

I hope it was a meeting to find his replacement. If so this would be huge. I bet the Taliban are thinking now that they should have never messed with the CIA.

Posted by Mike at February 2, 2010 6:57 PM ET:

Rookie, keep the political talking points away from here. You say the word socialism, and it exposes you as a misinformed partisan hack. And you're wrong on another point, as well: the drone campaign is not only supported tacitly by Pakistan's elite, it has wide acceptance according to what polling is available, and that support is most notable in the tribal agencies themselves. No one likes the Taliban. As long as the drone strikes are seen as killing terrorists and not too many civilians, ordinary Pakistanis will tolerate them at least.

Posted by Setrak at February 2, 2010 7:35 PM ET:

Per CNN, Siraj Haqqani himself was the target. A spokesman for him has said he had already left the area. 29 dead.( http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/02/02/pakistan.drone.strike/index.html )

Posted by Setrak at February 2, 2010 7:40 PM ET:

Also from CNN: Targets in multiple villages were hit.

Posted by TimSln at February 2, 2010 9:26 PM ET:

We shall see how this all plays out. My gut is telling me, Hakeemullah Mehsud was wounded by the Jan. 14 drone attack, and died of his wounds a few days later.

Today's strike leads me to believe there was an extremely important HVT and/or multiple HVTs targeted.

Posted by Bob at February 2, 2010 10:49 PM ET:

"Our Correspondent adds: According to informed sources, the compounds attacked belonged to Taliban Commander Hafiz Gul Behadur who headed a band of local and foreign militants.

The group of Gul Behadur issued a warning on Sunday that flames of conflict would engulf the whole of North Waziristan if the government launched a military operation or drone attacks continued."

from:
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/06-us-missile-strike-kills-at-least-ten-militants-rs-04

Posted by Neo at February 2, 2010 11:20 PM ET:

It looks like all these targets are in the Tochi valley west of Miran Shah.
Datta Khel 32.908 N, 69.744 E
Pai Khel 32.971 N, 69.840 E
Muhammad Khel 32.958 N, 69.886 E

The upper Tochi valley stretches west of Miran Shah for 50 km to the Afghan boarder.

Posted by T Ruth at February 2, 2010 11:29 PM ET:

Its going to take a long time for the dust to settle on this one....

Long beyond the revelation of the scum that returned to dust.

More holes in the ground is the way to go for strategic depth in/for Pakistan.

Posted by Minnor at February 2, 2010 11:32 PM ET:

As for cost of a hellfire missile $65k, which is far less than the casualty of a foot soldier or a pilot, or even cost of recovering a pow soldier. Russia lost 15k soldiers in afghanistan, though now each casualty is valued more.

Posted by Clark Savage at February 3, 2010 12:02 AM ET:

Would be good if somehow the areas where these drone strikes occur could be peppered with small, deadly mines (delivered with another sort of missile) as a gift to to the local militants would would rescue their mates...

Posted by Mr T at February 3, 2010 1:13 AM ET:

"Taliban Commander Hafiz Gul Behadur who headed a band of local and foreign militants."

Oh, so he was at home? Imagine, where can we find this Taliban Commander? How about we go to his house? Or just blow it up? Where are the other Taliban Commanders homes please?

This would also seem like the perfect time to have the Pakistani Army come in and do some work there on the ground. Or maybe the weather prohibits it?

If they are really cockroaches on the run, then strategy might possibly dictate some ground force movement to take advantage of the disruption.

Siraj is the #4 target. I could see this activity for him. Do you think he would be in one of the finite hardened bunkers in Waziristan etc? There can't be that many built that intelligence would not be able to find out from the locals who built them sooner or later.

Lots of chatter here.

Posted by Dan A at February 3, 2010 1:54 AM ET:

Even if many of the people killed were lower-level operatives, anybody in the area of either Sirajaddin or Hakeemullah is almost certainly among the military and ideological elite of AQ or the Taliban. Killing 30 foot soldiers is a much bigger deal than killing the poor schmuck who's just doing it for the paycheck. Considering we're spending mid-high tens of billions in the area, killing even one with a hellfire missile is money well spent.

Posted by avitodvd at February 3, 2010 4:14 AM ET:

This might be a residual effect of the CIA finding out it had a double agent working with Hakeemullah. They don't know what was compromised so they might as well go all out and nflict max damage where they can. They might kill some people that got information from the double agent and they might also be using up the final information they were provided.

Posted by Rookie at February 3, 2010 7:25 AM ET:

@Mike: "misinformed partisan hack"... That's a good one.

While somehow you're right about keeping US politics out of this forum for the sake of relevant discussion, US politics is playing THE major role in the "war on terror". Defense budget, ROE and so on means politics.

Not being an US citizen, I'm hardly a partisan hack, as for misinformed, I'm glad that you have data available to you which show that my comment related to socialism is wrong. They say people from outside a process can often spot the problems better than the ones inside it...

Posted by Rookie at February 3, 2010 7:40 AM ET:

Sorry for the double post: 3 US soldiers killed in Pakistan, Lower Dir's Hajiabad area.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/04-explosion-lower-dir-qs-01

"...targeted personnel who were due to attend the inauguration of a girls' school renovated with US assistance."

Posted by jim2 at February 3, 2010 9:25 AM ET:

On small delivered mines, I would expect several of any such things to be carefully recovered by the militants and then used for posed pictures with children amidst tear-jerk stories of dead and mutilated kids.

Posted by My2cents at February 3, 2010 12:09 PM ET:

re: Clark Savage & Jim2

No need for the Taliban to risk themselves recovering mines.

If you drop air scattered mines on a Taliban controlled area they will just grab a bunch of children and drive them through the area to generate casualties for the Press. Much simpler.

It's not a good idea to do such a thing. It's like throwing a top comedian a punch line, the comeback is so automatic that he almost cannot stop himself.

Posted by Mike Hollins at February 3, 2010 12:30 PM ET:

I'd think some sort of larger, less focused weapon--maybe a small bomb--might be useful for killing people who scattered from enclosed areas as soon as an attack began. I'm sure the mission planners change the weapon load somewhat, based on the characteristics of the target and what they've learned from other drone strikes.

Posted by natej740 at February 3, 2010 4:13 PM ET:

Any updates who the target was and a final body count???

Posted by Mr. Wolf at February 3, 2010 5:37 PM ET:

If there are that many drones (assuming some were brought in after the first few rockets exploded), on one target, how come we didn't send in special forces quickly after the strike, mop up, and fly back out.

From the visuals I see in the open source world (Google Earth, reuters/ap/cnn/media pics) a couple of attack helicopters to monitor the area, and a few cargo helo's to carry the troops would be isolated enough to secure land and search for documents before locals with protection intentions responded.

We can always see how many buildings are destroyed, and up until now, we always could be assured of someone getting away from that scream in the sky. But with 18 shots fired, we know the buildings are going to turn to rubble, what about the target. Clean up operation: 35 minutes on the ground is too long, but zero is too short.

Maybe have some sensors placed when they arrive to detect other movements after the attack. The Wazirs know we are up there, they know we are targeting the leaders, and they know we do not want to destroy their way of life... but just blowing up a building, and then not showing up to claim it, is just backwards.

Posted by Meremortal at February 3, 2010 8:14 PM ET:

@Rookie, who wrote:

"Economically, I think US cannot afford this price tag."

It helps to look at the big picture.

Defense spending = 5% of USA GDP.

Domestic spending = 18% of GDP.

It's not war that's breaking the USA.

Posted by T Ruth at February 3, 2010 9:25 PM ET:

Mr Wolf,

Isn't politics the only thing in the way of what you suggest?

Just to go back to Obama's surge speech Dec 1
"We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear."

So while Kayani says Feb 1
"We have broken the myth that Waziristan cannot be controlled," he doesn't pull his weight and get in there, or can't because he doesn't have the special forces that you are talking about. (And they are over-stretched and don't have the capacity.) Or the US cannot trust the ISI to tip off their friends.

The fact is Pakistan does not have the tactical depth to even go exhume a dead terrorist from his grave. So for weeks there is speculation-what good is it in a War to sit on your rear and say that we believe, with 90% confidence, that so-and-so is dead.

To be clear, Pakistani terroritories still need a clean-up operation--big-time.

What you say is a small step for Special Forces but a big step for Civilization.

Posted by kp at February 3, 2010 9:32 PM ET:

Mr Wolf: overt SF boots on the ground annoys the Pakistani government. And we can't afford to do that for non HVT.


We've done it once so far. If we find AZ or UBL you can bet we'll do it again. But not for "minor" HVT targets. I'm sure AQAM leak enough info (by movement, on radio, to HUMINT, etc) to determine what happened in the strike. I've also suggested that we might have covert "CSI" for some strikes (most likely out in the Boonies) to do confirmations for special folks. Heck, they're fundamentalist Islamists: the bodies have to be buried in a day. That gives you a change to go take a sample there or perhaps at the site of the hit.


The only real reason to put boots on the ground is to gather intelligence (including capturing people or things) not to kill people. A Hellfire or SDB can do that with less risk.


And to the "big bomb" folks: check out the lethal radius of 500lb bomb and figure out how long it takes for two people running in opposite directions to move out of that circle. The answer is about 30m (frag goes out a lot further and will take out the odd person 500m away or even hit attack aircraft) but blast is what you rely on to kill people. And people can run 30m in less than 10 seconds. I've seen the gun camera footage the folks split up after an attack. There are no massed targets: if there are you would hit them with an SDB but they just don't do that. Big bombs are useless once the people start to move but Hellfires work because you hit with 25lbs very close to the person. I suspect "meeting attacks" on a building/bunker/cave you know only has Bad Guys in it starts with a SDB on the target then Hellfire on the squirters. But if you are just going for a HVT and you know which room or small building or vehicle he's in you hit that with a Hellfire with thermobaric/frag warhead. Precision works much better than "random fire". And it scares the opposition much more.

Posted by Civy at February 3, 2010 11:59 PM ET:

KP,
Generally agree with your analysis, but did want to point out that SDBs have the same terminal guidance, and the glide version are moving about as fast as the HellFires. The difference is the latency between release and impact.

Having studied this problem a lot, the solution is speculative release of SDBs from high altitudes with a designated 'waste' area the bomb diverts itself to if no terminal guidance is forthcoming. The bombs are dropped based on the expected ETA required. This would allow hundreds, or even thousands of bombs, to hit a single target virtually simultaneously.

Also agree with your analysis of sequencing, except for mopping up operations. Once all of the nth round targets are hit, you use SDBs - especially hypobarric and deep penetration types - to hit anything that looks worthy, even if no targets are known or seen.

As for the cost, AC-130s & Reapers are firebases you can move wherever you want at 250 knots. They don't tie up 120 men, the men don't need supplies, protection, relief and cannot be targeted by an enemy with no airforce. You can also move them over mud that would drown tracked arty, over snow-bound mtn passes, and through fog, rain, sleet, snow and sweltering heat that screws up ranging. You also don't have to fire for ranging first before firing for effect - which gives everyone time to hug the mud or crawl in a hole. 1 HellFire, 1+ Kill.

While always important considerations, in a country that is land-locked, littered with IEDs, and has a whopping 18 miles of railroad in the entire country, it is imperative to keep the logistics train to a minimum.

The DOD has a lot of computer models and some amazing computers to run them on. I think they have run the numbers ad-nauseam and the 'expensive way' is actually a lot cheaper - even if we didn't care about 200 KIA a month using a Vietnam-style fixed firebase system and Pak infantry style mountain assaults.

Posted by unk at February 4, 2010 2:06 AM ET:

As we get into the weeds on ordnance. Remember to avoid mis-characterizations of capability and ability when it comes to "boots on the ground".
SF is for Special Forces or specifically Army Green Berets. SOF stands for Special Operations Forces, which is a broad brush term for a capability. SOF to include the air component, ground operators and joint command are organized and designed to execute high risk missions. This would include a cross border BDA.

Posted by Cordell at February 4, 2010 3:16 AM ET:

The US military intelligence sources are now claiming that Hakeemullah Mehsud is indeed dead. Please see: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100204/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_taliban_leader

This may not be the nail in the proverbial coffin on this story but given the Taliban's retraction of their promise to provide evidence that Mehsud is alive, it ratchets up the probability to at least 80%. Speculation that the recent 18-missile strike hit a Taliban meeting to choose Mehsud's successor may well have been right on target.

Posted by captainjohann at February 4, 2010 4:13 AM ET:

Hi,
Onething is sure. General Musharaff was saying to Bush that there are no Alqueada in Pakistan.Who are these guys getting killed in North Wazirstan?It is not only the Jordanian who double crossed CIA but also leadersi n Pakistan as well.

Posted by Mr T at February 4, 2010 12:19 PM ET:

Maybe we should develop that space based laser fir system. Then a guy in a room in Las Vegas could shoot a laser from space at squirters. Pinpoint accuracy and like playing a video game but with real terrorists.

It is a long war. Lets get cracking.

Posted by BraddS at February 4, 2010 5:19 PM ET:

I think the fact that there have been no more drone strikes since, indicates they got who they were looking for.

Posted by T Ruth at February 7, 2010 12:38 PM ET:

Still waiting to hear what they got!

The erratic pace of the strikes is not encouraging. The public doesn't know how much damage was done to the intel pipeline by the Chapman attack. Or the effect on the rate of intel flow from Pakistan while they've been going down the path of 'talks'.

As it is Pak seems to be sheltering the good Taliban.

Wonder if the Pak army slowdown is related to the US withholding a good chunk of money from the CI Fund for lack of proper accounting.