US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, kills 8


Siraj_Haqqani-1.jpg

Click to view slide show of commanders in the Haqqani Network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.

The US has killed five terrorists while targeting the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network in an airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Unmanned US strike aircraft, the Predators or Reapers operating from secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, fired three missiles at "a fortress-like" Haqqani Network compound and a vehicle in the village of Dargi Mandi just outside the main town of Miramshah, a report at Dawn.

Five Haqqani Network fighters and three foreign fighters, a term used to describe al Qaeda members, were reported killed and several more were wounded, according to according to The New York Times. No senior leaders have been reported killed at this time. Haqqani Network fighters surrounded the compound after the attack.

The Miramshah region is controlled by the Haqqani Network, the Taliban group that is based in North Waziristan group and operates in eastern Afghanistan. Anti-Soviet mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is the patriarch of the Haqqani Network, while his son Siraj is the military commander who runs the day-to-day operations.

The Haqqanis are closely allied to al Qaeda and the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar. The Haqqani family runs the Manba Ulom madrassa in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, a hub of activity for the terror group. The US has struck at targets in Danda Darpa Khel five times since Aug. 20, 2009, and seven times since September 2008.

The last US strike, on Feb. 18, took place in Danda Darpa Khel and targeted Siraj. Intelligence indicated Siraj was attending the funeral of Sheikh Mansour, an al Qaeda military commander who was killed in a US strike the day prior. Siraj escaped the attack, but his brother Mohammed, a military commander in the Haqqani Network, was killed.

Siraj is one of the most wanted Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the Afghan-Pakistan region. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. He is the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, including suicide assaults in Kabul, and he is the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj serves as the leader of the Taliban's Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban's four regional commands [see LWJ report, "The Afghan Taliban's top leaders"].

Siraj is considered dangerous not only for his ties with the Afghan Taliban, but also because of his connections with al Qaeda's central leadership, which extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. On March 25, 2009, the US Department of State put out a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Siraj.

Today's attack is the sixth this month and the seventeenth this year. All 17 of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. The US carried out 53 strikes in 2009 and 36 in 2008. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]

The US ramped up the airstrikes in Pakistan after an al Qaeda suicide bomber, aided by the Haqqani Network and Pakistani Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The Dec. 30, 2009, attack was carried out by a Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province. The al Qaeda suicide bomber lured CIA officials by claiming to have information that would lead to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command.

Since the Dec. 30 suicide attack, the US has been hunting Hakeemullah, who appeared with the Jordanian suicide bomber on a martyrdom tape that was released shortly after the attack. Hakeemullah was rumored to have died on three separate occasions after being targeted in a Jan. 14 strike. The Taliban have denied he is dead and have claimed that a tape confirming he is alive will be released soon. But more than a week has passed since the Taliban said Hakeemullah would release a tape.

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 few 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 the Shadow 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:


US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, kills 8
Feb. 24, 2010
US airstrikes target Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Feb. 18, 2010
Latest US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan
Feb. 17, 2010
US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan
Feb. 15, 2010
US strikes training camp in North Waziristan
Feb. 14, 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: "US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, kills 8"

Posted by t at February 24, 2010 9:36 AM ET:

make it rain

Posted by Mst at February 24, 2010 10:05 AM ET:

The US is hoping spook osama bin laden or Zawaheri in to a security mistake, These other dudes have not been able to stay ahead of our drones and our guys doing intelligence on the ground. It seems like the target is the HAQANNI GROUP. which is hiding these guys or they know where these guys are or better where they will be in an hour. Make it Rain

Posted by T Ruth at February 24, 2010 11:44 AM ET:

Pakistan's favorite terrorist. Hope they got him!

Btw, Bill, i love the way you say about Huckee, rumored to have died on 3 separate occasions! With all the action around the QS, not surprised he's laying low. That is, of course, if he's alive (but as of now definitely not kicking). It did occur to me, with hindsight, whether Barader was Malik's 'credible information' when he confirmed Mehsud's death. He should've been in the know. But if that were the case, i can't see why Pak would've not made that transparent by now.

Posted by T Ruth at February 24, 2010 11:46 AM ET:

A Reaper a day will keep the Talib at bay.

Posted by kp at February 24, 2010 12:32 PM ET:

Two interesting comments in the report.


The first is "Haqqani Network fighters surrounded the compound after the attack". It would be nice to know how big this cordon response was ... previously bigger cordons have indicated a HVT was hit.


The second in the NYT piece is "A resident said the compound was used by militants from Pakistan's southern Punjab Province allied with Al Qaeda". Have the recent arrests made it hotter in the South? Or is this just home base up in the North?


Any more info?

Posted by ArneFufkin at February 24, 2010 12:41 PM ET:

"Haqqani Network fighters surrounded the compound after the attack."

That begs a question or two.


Posted by wdames at February 24, 2010 2:14 PM ET:

They surrounded the compound certainly does beg a question or two. One our intelligence is very god to know that but why didn't we hit a second time like they are so found of doing and then draw thwm in and hit them again.

Posted by Uncle Jimbo at February 24, 2010 3:45 PM ET:

How come you keep posting this picture of the illegitimate love child of Jesus and Charles Manson.

Cordially,

Uncle J

Posted by BraddS at February 24, 2010 4:19 PM ET:

I am guessing that the scum that "cordon off the area" after these strikes aren't even worth the cost of a missile...

Posted by Render at February 24, 2010 5:20 PM ET:

Uncle J!

Don't see you around these parts nearly enough.

Got a better picture of the scumbag?

Every blog needs a mascot.

SHADOWS
IN THE
WAR,
R

Posted by KaneKaizer at February 24, 2010 6:02 PM ET:

Keep it up, wipe out their leadership.

Posted by Zeissa at February 24, 2010 7:18 PM ET:

More blood. The Earth should accept some 20-50 lives of rank and file Taliban personnel forming cordons.

Posted by Mike at February 24, 2010 7:39 PM ET:

I think it is great to kill the leaders and fighters. However, I think there is an inexhaustable supply of both as long as the radical Immans are allowed to brainwash students in their madarassas. Shouldn't we be eliminating the source of all the hatred and terror?

Posted by Zeissa at February 25, 2010 12:53 AM ET:

Targeting the powerstructure of radical Islam is an excellent idea, however:
Your method of branding the theologically correct forms of Islam has been tried often the last 1400 years and has usually failed and in some cases created sects that are considered heretical.
The entire history of Islam and the vast regions of corpses and the longest ongoing genocide to known world history (India, 600 million, 1000 years) beg to differ.

Posted by Zeissa at February 25, 2010 12:56 AM ET:

Islam is conservative, it cannot be interpreted in wide forms and the latter Sures have precedence over the former... not that the former Sures are peaceful either.

Secular Islam is not Islam at all. The core of Islam is submission to Allah's will and the strict adherance to his rules, which lay out in detail the conquest of the entire world to pave the way for his coming.
This is in contrast to Judaism which seeks for the Messiah to institute a diplomatic and military peaceful unity of the world and to Christians who seek military dominion only in the afterlife.

Posted by Paul at February 25, 2010 2:47 AM ET:

My question is why don't we send a missile while they are cordoning off the area? Now THAT would instill fear! They would never feel safe.

Posted by T Ruth at February 25, 2010 4:32 AM ET:

Mike,

I tend to agree with you on your comment re inexhaustible supply. Although i'm not convinced that there's an infinite supply of Arab leaders into the area. Plus OBL and Zawahiri are synonymous with AQ, effectively the umbrella and major source of inspiration, financing and skills.

I suspect there is a tipping point once you have the head of AQ and enough of the iconic scalps in the affiliated movements, but not without dismantling the infrastructure.

Which leads to your question "Shouldn't we be eliminating the source of all the hatred and terror?"... Now lets see, that would mean:
* the clergy and their madrassas
* their training camps
* a good chunk of the ISI and its nerve centres
* the poppy fields

Now is that too tall an order? Looking at it simply, but not simplistically, the answer is not really--given all the resources that ISAF has. BUT, there is simply NO strategy re Pakistan. And THIS is the problem--the first 3 items on the above list are essentially inside Pakistan, which is why the US's grand strategy remains fatally flawed.

Re-house the whole Quetta Shura, this is going to be a long, long war.

Posted by Hai at February 25, 2010 7:22 AM ET:

We need to frag the Pakistani spooks at ISI - they are the ones frustrating us in this theater.

As usual, we are pussy-footing around the problem, like we did back in Vietnam - its the leadership and institutions of our supposed allies that need to be targeted. Once we get rid of them, and destroy the bad guys' support infrastructure owned by the ISI, rolling up the Taliban should take a few months.

But looks like the folks in D.C. will not let that happen. Get ready for video of helos evacuating our embassy staff in Islamabad. Shall we say by 2012?

Posted by Bill Baar at February 25, 2010 11:24 AM ET:

Bill, any comments on Mike's comment? I wonder about this decapitation strategy. It seems to me the leaders just keep coming...

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 25, 2010 1:16 PM ET:

RE: Mike's comments (sorry I don't always get time to delve in comments section as I'd like to, I am trying harder.)

Not taking the fight to the leadership is not a solution. The strikes against the leadership isn't a strategy, it is a tactic to keep AQ/Taliban/AQAM off balance until a real solution to the root of the problem is hopefully implemented by the Pak govt (we have to hope right?).

That said, their isn't an inexhaustible supply of experienced leaders; it takes time to develop skills, build trust and relationships, etc. Killing the leaders forces the enemy to adapt, take time to increase opsec/personal security at expense of operations, etc.

That is the $.10 version anyway.

Posted by Zeissa at February 25, 2010 4:37 PM ET:

The Pakistani government will never implement a real solution to their problem. They may institute a solution that works for a generation, but as long as the Madrassas and Clerics keep running they will keep brainwashing 'the endless' masses with Islam.

Killing off the perpetuating structure is a minimum. Personally, though it would be even further beyond the acceptable politically correct horizon, I prefer to see the foot soldiers die as well, they are not inexhaustible, not even functionally. Terror would assure that if thousands died in a year.

Posted by bard207 at February 25, 2010 6:00 PM ET:

Zeissa,

-----------------------------------------------------------
The Pakistani government will never implement a real solution to their problem. They may institute a solution that works for a generation, but as long as the Madrassas and Clerics keep running they will keep brainwashing 'the endless' masses with Islam.

Killing off the perpetuating structure is a minimum. Personally, though it would be even further beyond the acceptable politically correct horizon, I prefer to see the foot soldiers die as well, they are not inexhaustible, not even functionally. Terror would assure that if thousands died in a year.
-----------------------------------------------------------

As long as those in charge Pakistan have an India Centric philosophy and continue to dream of the distant past when Muslims ruled on the Subcontinent, they won't devote enough attention and funding to their education system and other social needs.

When will Pakistan change its basic philosophy - goals in regards to relations with India and other countries in the area?

When it realizes that those goals are no longer achievable.

It will take some more pain in Pakistan before that message sinks in.

Posted by Oz at February 26, 2010 1:36 AM ET:

Bill I never bought into the argument of an "inexahustible supply of leaders" myself. Not only are they affected operationally but the charisma that is possessed by many of these leaders who are killed is not easily replicated. Despite all their professions of the glory of martyrdom, the death of a militant leader with charisma hurts the terrorists deeply psychologically as their recruitment suffers and the interruption in command and control is surely a huge factor as well. On a side note Bill, I would like to see commentary on how the Taliban leadership (typically young upstart rebels with some but not necessary well-established tribal ties) is perceived by the traditional tribal elders whose power has been usurped. It is my understanding the pashtunwali is the tribal code of most Pashtoons and that breaching this code through murder and terror, albeit in the name of "Islam," must carry with it some serious grudge-making. Is US intel exploiting these divisions?

Madrassa reform is also certainly a factor in this war, but I strongly feel the emphasis should be placed on intel-based assassination of terror leadership. Reform of madrassas is an entirely different matter altogether and must be handled through diplomatic carrots and sticks, in my opinion. The fact is madrassa reform can never truly be implemented if rule of law is not established as a prerequisite in the tribal areas.

Finally, I hold to the position that this war will continue as long as the Karzai regime remains in power. Negotiating with a morally bankrupt kleptocrat who does not have the confidence of the people he governs is a losing prospect.

Posted by Zeissa at February 26, 2010 7:45 PM ET:

I agree completely Bard. However I do object to your quantifying adjective. I would replace 'some pain necessary for realization' with 'a lot'.

Oz, what theological arguments exactly do you have that back up your argument that they're not advancing the cause of Islam? Admittedly their form of Wahhabism is slightly extreme, but their methods are tried and proven and approved of by Muslim authorities since the age of Mohammed.

As for decapitating leaders, I agree. It is effective even against Muslim insurgents due to the centralized nature of the religion... see how Buddhism died out in India while Hinduism survived because it was decentralized. However I hope we do not force them to evolve.

Posted by Zeissa at February 26, 2010 7:47 PM ET:

Also, these madrassa reforms are a great idea but are inherently against the freedom of speech if not undemocratic.

They were not forced into it. However I do believe we should force them out of it, they do not deserve the privileges they threaten.

Posted by bard207 at February 27, 2010 1:09 AM ET:

Zeissa

I have no problem with changing it to a lot of pain to initiate change in Pakistan.

Sadly, even with the overall mayhem and high levels of violence currently in Pakistan, the needed change hasn't even been considered, much less started upon.

Until Pakistan and its citizens can admit that they need to change direction - philosophy in numerous areas, things will continue on the current course.