The US killed three suspected terrorists in the first airstrike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies this month.
The strike, which was carried out by unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers, targeted “a sprawling compound” in the village of Norak in North Waziristan, according to Reuters. It is unclear if the strike targeted al Qaeda, the Taliban, or allied Central Asian terror groups known to operate in the tribal agency.
The compound is known to be used by the Taliban. The Taliban have reportedly cordoned off the scene of the attack and are preventing outsiders from observing recovery operations.
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time.
The town of Norak is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. The Haqqanis are closely allied to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar. The Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Siraj is the leader the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Taliban’s top four commands; he sits on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura; and he is also is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis.
The US killed Mohammed Haqqani, one of 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in the Feb. 18 airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.
Today’s strike is just the second since Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, called for the CIA to end the attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Alston claimed the program is not subject to accountability that would exist under a program run by the US military.
Alston’s comments follow criticisms of the CIA program earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit against the the Defense Department, the State Department, and the Justice Department, demanding enforcement of its January request for information on the program.
The US government has defended the air campaign in Pakistan, and insisted the program is in line with international laws of war and remains accountable to the US Congress.
Background on US strikes in Pakistan
Today’s strike is the first reported inside Pakistan this month. So far this year, the US has carried out 39 strikes in Pakistan; all but two of them have taken place in North Waziristan. An airstrike on May 28 occurred in South Waziristan. Al Qaeda later announced that Osama bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Damjan al Dawsari, a wanted Saudi terrorist, was killed in the strike.
The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s strike total in Pakistan. 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 LWJ Special Report, “Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan, and have also struck at targets in South Waziristan and Khyber, in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. [For more information, see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Most recently, on May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders. Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, and more importantly, as al Qaeda’s top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group’s purse strings. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Yazid is the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date. His death came more than a month after a top terrorist leader claimed that the US program had been crippled.
In early April, Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, said that the effectiveness of US airstrikes in killing senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders had “decreased 90 percent” since the suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman. While other factors may be involved in the decreased effectiveness in killing the top-tier leaders, an analysis of the data shows that only three top-tier commanders have been killed since Jan 1, 2010, but seven top-tier leaders were killed between Aug. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009. [See LWJ report, “Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan ‘decreased 90 percent’ since suicide strike on CIA – Siraj Haqqani,“ for more information.]
For the past few months, most US and Pakistani officials believed that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, had been killed in a Jan. 14 strike in Pasalkot in North Waziristan. But recently, after four months of silence on the subject, the Taliban released two tapes to prove that Hakeemullah is alive. On the tapes, Hakeemullah said the Taliban will carry out attacks inside the US.
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
June 10, 2010
May 28, 2010
May 21, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 11, 2010
May 9, 2010
May 3, 2010
April 26, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 16, 2010
April 14, 2010
April 12, 2010
March 30, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 23, 2010
March 21, 2010
March 17, 2010
March 16, 2010
March 10, 2010
March 8, 2010
Feb. 24, 2010
Feb. 18, 2010
Feb. 17, 2010
Feb. 15, 2010
Feb. 14, 2010
Feb. 2, 2010
Jan. 29, 2010
Jan. 19, 2010
Jan. 17, 2010
Jan. 15, 2010
Jan. 14, 2010
Jan. 9, 2010
Jan. 8, 2010
Jan. 6, 2010
Jan. 3, 2010
Jan. 1, 2010