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US kills 8 terrorists in 2 new airstrikes in North Waziristan


The US launched two new airstrikes in Pakistan's Taliban controlled-tribal agency of North Waziristan, just one day after killing 11 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in a strike in the same region.

Unmanned US Predators and Reapers struck in the villages of Hamzoni and Datta Khel today, killing eight Taliban fighters.

In the first strike, the US aircraft fired five missiles at two vehicles transporting "militants" in the village of Hamzoni, Geo News reported. Five fighters were reported killed in the attack.

In the second strike, US aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in Datta Khel. Three terrorists were killed in the attack. At this time, no senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in either attack.

Both strikes took place in regions administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadi groups shelter in Bahadar's tribal areas, and they also run training camps and safe houses in the region. The Pakistani military has indicated it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban group that is closely allied with al Qaeda and is also based in North Waziristan.

The US has launched three airstrikes inside Pakistan in two days. Yesterday's attack also took place in Datta Khel. Five missiles were fired on a compound, killing 11 terrorists, mostly "Arabs" according to reports.

After yesterday's attack in Datta Khel, Arab fighters from al Qaeda were seen establishing a three-kilometer cordon around the attack site. The large number of Arabs seen around the site indicates that a high value target may have been present.

The Arab al Qaeda fighters establishing the cordon after yesterday's strike in Datta Khel could be from the Black Guard, praetorians use to guard al Qaeda's top leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, or Sheikh Saeed al Masri. The Arabs also could be from the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda's military force.

The two latest strikes put the March total at five. So far this year, the US has carried out 22 strikes in Pakistan; all of them have taken place in North Waziristan. In 2009, the US carried out 53 strikes in Pakistan; and in 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes in the country. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]

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.

Unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan over the past several months in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed four 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 several others - a top Pakistani Taliban leader, a member of al Qaeda's top council, and a wanted Philippine terrorist - is still unknown.

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 of leaders and operatives thought to have been killed in US strikes].

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; Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan; Mohammed Haqqani, a military commander in the Haqqani Network; Sheikh Mansoor, an al Qaeda Shadow Army commander; and Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam. 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.

The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is still unknown; the Taliban released a videotape of him on March 1 but it did not confirm he was alive. Numerous Taliban leaders have stated that he is still alive and in command. On March 15, Khalid Khawaja, a lawyer for terrorist groups in Pakistan and a former ISI officer, claimed that his associates met with Hakeemullah on March 9.

On March 1, a rumor surfaced that Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party and a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, was killed in a strike on Feb. 15. 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.

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US kills eight terrorists in two new airstrikes in North Waziristan
March 17, 2010
US Predator strike in North Waziristan kills 11 Taliban, al Qaeda
March 16, 2010
US airstrike kills 12 in North Waziristan
March 10, 2010
US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 5 Taliban fighters
March 8, 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 kills 8 terrorists in 2 new airstrikes in North Waziristan"

Posted by Paul at March 17, 2010 12:34 AM ET:

Keepem' coming! Let these guys be afriad to step out of their houses. Kill CIA people will ya?
They are gonna be so sorry they ever took that shot.

Posted by SkyNet at March 17, 2010 2:18 AM ET:

"Their charred bodies are still lying in the vehicle and no one dares to recover them since the drones continue to hover overhead," added the official. "

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/314454,suspected-us-drone-attacks-kill-seven-in-pakistan.html

Posted by Paul 2 at March 17, 2010 6:44 AM ET:

Always a bonus to hit arabs rather than the local scum/punjabis!

Posted by steve m. at March 17, 2010 9:41 AM ET:

this sounds great.

Posted by Nic at March 17, 2010 10:35 AM ET:

RE: The US has launched three airstrikes inside Pakistan in two days. Yesterday's attack also took place in Datta Khel. Five missiles were fired on a compound, killing 11 terrorists, mostly "Arabs" according to reports.

After yesterday's attack in Datta Khel, Arab fighters from al Qaeda were seen establishing a three-kilometer cordon around the attack site. The large number of Arabs seen around the site indicates that a high value target may have been present.

Question: I am curious as to how "Arabs" are identified. In all of the pictures I have seen, the Talib all dress the same. The first paragraph said they were Arabs "according to reports". Are these reports from people in the village, people on the ground, or sources that cannot be identified because of OPSEC?
In the second paragraph "The large number of Arabs seen" has me wondering how they were seen and, based on pictures that show only their eyes from behind the cloth covering their faces, how were they determined to be Arab? Once again, I ask for help from the good people in LWJ land.


Posted by Paul at March 17, 2010 10:44 AM ET:

What I don't understand is how they can allow them to cordon off the area. Send the missiles in and then send in 20 helicopters of troops into the hornets nest and find out who we killed. Get the pakistanis to land troops and take over this damn area once and for all. Get the gloves off.

Posted by BraddS at March 17, 2010 11:08 AM ET:

Paul, that's the problem, first - last - and always: we fight our wars according to a seemingly endless set of changing rules that are constantly being criticized in the media and broadcast around the world. It's hard to win when you play by the rules, but it CAN be done. It just takes longer.

Posted by kp at March 17, 2010 2:09 PM ET:

@Nic says Question: I am curious as to how "Arabs" are identified. In all of the pictures I have seen, the Talib all dress the same.


They don't all dress the same. In fact (at least at one point) the AQ Shadow Army have been dressing in a manner that nicely differentiates them from the locals when seen in high-res imaging. Bill's article here shows this nicely

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/02/al_qaedas_paramilita.php

The extremists who follow al Qaeda's religious beliefs think that pants must be at least six inches above the ground because there's a hadith [a saying of the Prophet Mohammed] that says clothes that touch the ground are a sign of pride and vanity," the expert said. "This, along with the new dyeing of men's beards red or yellow is a sure sign of al Qaeda-ization."

The type of masks worn and the tennis shoes are also strong indicators that these fighters "are non-Afghan fighters," an expert on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan said. "Those types of masks I have seen, and they are always on the Pakistani side of the border," the expert said. "The tennis shoes and socks are a big indicator that they are non-Afghan fighters, probably Pakistanis or Arab/Central Asian fighters."

One can use this sort of information to identify AQ from the locals with imaging systems.


The other "shoot 'em all" approach is you can't tell a lot of Taliban from locals other than their "structure" (manning a check point or gathering together from some other task). They do dress the same.


The message sent to the locals with targeted attacks is: don't harbor Taliban/AQ or you'll get hit but if you don't harbor them you won't. That's motivation. You can see this in the "no one is going near the truck that was hit" report it improves our kill rate doing this.


Final point CIA and military have a set of goals with the "drone program" (it's really all intel/ops) in AFPAK: that's damaging AQ/Taliban command and control; denying a sense of safe haven and ability to form training camps; damaging AQs ability to plan and train for external operations; finding and killing/capturing HVT and ultimately finding the super HVTs. This also means the super HVTs have to be off the grid: their ability to command and control is very much reduced as they have to spend their effort not being killed or captured and have a very low bandwidth connection to the outside world. Blowing up a random Talib with a Kalshinikov doesn't rank high on their list of tasks.

Posted by Paul at March 17, 2010 2:36 PM ET:

Brad, I know...it's just frustrating. At what point in war do you say...hey this is a war and the object is to win? At any cost...otherwise we are deluding ourself in nothing more than a lethal Risk game.
I say wipe out NW & SW now.

Posted by BraddS at March 17, 2010 3:20 PM ET:

Paul, I so agree with you!

Posted by jayc at March 17, 2010 5:08 PM ET:

Absolutely spot on observation, kp. Without going into my military experience, we looked for indicators like these to separate the good guys from the bad. As for your final point concerning denuding their command and control, yes, it is extremely hard to go on the offensive when you are running for your life. How you like us now, obl?

Posted by blacktiger at March 17, 2010 5:50 PM ET:

@Paul

I can certainly understand your frustrations. However, the scenario of the US putting troops on the ground in a sovereign nation, in a region that is already unstable, has very far-reaching implications. Most certainly this is not the first time that the US would have taken or considered such an action but the real questions, IMO, are: What real value would such an action have? What are the ramifications for the country as a whole? What would the global reaction be? What are the consequences in the short and long term? What have we learned from our previous experiences and are we applying those lessons to the current situation?

Let's explore the concept of embarking upon such a gambit for a bit. I'm guessing we would have to act unilatiraly as it is highly doubtful we would get any support from US allies and NATO. The political fallout alone would probably bring us to the edge of another world war if not directly into it.

Then let's talk about the logistics. Considering all the conflicts we're involved with right now, do we really have the resources and will to invade another country? Does that really make sense? Someone correct me if I'm wrong but even with the amount funding and support the US provides to the Pakistani governmenment, it would still be way cheaper to pursue diplomacy than to start a war with them. I'm painting broad strokes here but I think you get the point.

Invading a country just because they happen to have a different view or approach in timing and methodology would probably not be in our best interest. In my humble opinion, we need to be the smartest guys in the room and figure out how to respond (as opposed to react)and deal effectively with threats while at the same time ensuring understanding and respect towards other cultures and nations. It's a small world these days and as with anywhere else we live our lives we need to be good neighbors. Investing in helping countries develop their infrastructure so as to allow them to be able to provide for their own security would be the win-win situation. The long term pay-off will be much more significant but we need to have the patience to wait for it to bear fruit. I would posit again, that it would be a wiser investment of resources to pursue a balanced program of methods strategies that will allow us to have the agility to deal with developing threats effectively.

Thanks for reading if you've gotten this far. ;) I'd really be interested to hear what other folks think about this.

Cheers!

Posted by Setrak at March 17, 2010 5:58 PM ET:

The News: Hussein al-Yemeni, an al Qaeda operative believed to have been involved in the suicide bombing of CO Champman in Khost, is believed to have died in last week's drone attack.( http://www.thenews.com.pk/updates.asp?id=100973 ) Still no word on what happened in yesterday's drone attack which apparently hit AQC members.

Posted by Khalid Khawaja at March 17, 2010 7:33 PM ET:

It seems that almost all the comments are given by the people who are only blood thirsty. what right do your aggressor forces have to kill people in our lands. you have killed hundreds and thousands of our people and you are still losing the war. In fact your terrorist governments have provided justification to all the terrorists of the world to kill the innocent people, If you wished to retaliate for sept.11 and kill thousands of Iraquies Afghanies and Pakistanies although none of them had nothing to do with those attacks. We do have also the followers of Bush and Obama who also wish to retaliate and take revenge and mind it we are over 1600 million people and we are right in your blood. even if you throw a nuke you can not win you have to kill all of you to finish us as you have seen you kill 100 and you have 1000 more. the real danger is noy in Waziristan or Afghanistan but your own people who are educated and are realizing that

Posted by Mr T at March 17, 2010 8:56 PM ET:

"What would the global reaction be?"

Whats their reaction when Muslims blow up innocent people all over the world and hide behind women and children while they behead people like Danny Pearl or assasinate people running for political office, or grow poppies to make heroin which destroys how many lives?

Hey Khalid, you could surrender. I guess you thought Obama and the educated people would but apparently, the educated people know better. Just do us all a favor and turn yourself and your cohorts in. Then the killing of your people can stop. Its up to you.

Posted by John Abraham at March 17, 2010 9:30 PM ET:

Khalid,

Pakistani govt raised Taliban who in turn harbored OBL. So the Western war in AfPak region is entirely justified.


I guess your moral compass is completely screwed, having worshiped an immoral character all your life.

But aside from obvious immorality, what economic plan do you have for your starving people? How will you build an economy on fundamentalism?

Your fundamentalist ideology may work for a few million sparsely populated nation with oil riches but cannot work for a billion Muslims with few resources.

Also think about why your countrymen/women want(ed) to emigrate(even during peace time) to Western world?

Your ideology does not build an economy in which people can lead their lives. And your hatred for "infidels" is not going to help either.

But if you were a thinking person you would not worship the immoral character.

Posted by anti*terror at March 18, 2010 12:01 AM ET:

Khalid.BLood thirsty is NOT what the majority of americans ,even participants of these forums are relaying.More so frustration of having American and Allied forces losing lives, while our governments accrue large deficits protecting citizens worldwide including muslims and christians alike from the most pathetic minority on Earth. The muslim majority nations frown on extremists.Read any local columnists from any territory plagued by misguided muslim terrorists. Now ask me whos blood thirsty.Our Allied forces services have been requested to suppress the slanted view and impact extremists have on impovershed populations so in time your so called *invaders* can help the people who will appreciate it.

Posted by Paul at March 18, 2010 12:29 AM ET:

Khalid,
I'm think every one wants to tear into you. I won't give you the satisfaction of reacting to your misguided and ignorant grasp of the facts.The simple fact is ordinary good muslims need to stand up to fundamentalism. No where in the Koran does it advaocate killing so they are blaspheming their own religion. If ordinary muslims had some courage and came out against them like the cleric who recently issued a fatwa agianst suicide bombers maybe it would be a different world.
The choice is up to you all...either you tame them or we will. Completely justified by the way. WE were attacked on 9/11......they opened a can of worms they are going to regret.

Posted by SantaClaws at March 18, 2010 8:03 AM ET:

Khalid,

Do you pose these same questions to your Muslim brothers who bomb innocent Iraqi's that have done nothing but go to polling stations and vote? What excuse do you have for your Muslim brothers who don't target "aggressor forces" but other Muslims instead?

Your hypocrisy is disgusting.

Posted by Nic at March 18, 2010 10:02 AM ET:

Once again a big thanks goes out to kp for providing an excellent "backgrounder".