US Predator strike kills 10 in North Waziristan

The US killed 10 terrorists in an airstrike today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Predator strike is the first in more than two weeks, and also the first this month.

Unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired three missiles at a compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel near Miramshah.

Pakistani security officials claimed that between 10 and 14 “militants” were killed in the strike, according to AFP. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed at this time.

The strike took place in a region under the control of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Bahadar and his followers “good Taliban” as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. However, Bahadar supports Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, and the Haqqani Family, and his followers wage jihad in Afghanistan.

In the summer of 2009, just prior to launching a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the military agreed to a peace deal with Bahadar as well as with South Waziristan Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, another “good” Taliban commander. Nazir and Bahadar are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, but Bahadar has openly allied with the movement in the past.

The peace agreement allows for the Pakistani military to move through Bahadar and Nazir’s tribal areas without being attacked. Another condition of the agreement prohibits Bahadar and Nazir from providing shelter to fleeing members of the Mehsud branch of the Taliban.

But Taliban fighters from the Mehsud tribal areas have sought shelter with Bahadar, and the rearguard fighters still opposing the Army’s presence are receiving support from Bahadar’s forces, US military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal, despite a promise to eject the Mehsud Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s strike is the first reported inside Pakistan this month, and the first after a 16-day pause in the strikes. This is the longest delay between strikes recorded since the US ramped up the air campaign at the end of July 2008.

So far this year, the US has carried out 46 strikes in Pakistan; all but three have taken place in North Waziristan. The other two strikes took place in South Waziristan and the tribal agency of Khyber.

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.”]

Four al Qaeda military commanders and a Taliban commander were killed in airstrikes this month. The first strike, on June 10, killed two low-level Arab al Qaeda military commanders and a Turkish foreign fighter. A US attack on June 19 in Mir Ali killed an al Qaeda commander named Abu Ahmed, 11 members of the Islamic Jihad Group, and four Taliban fighters. On June 27, a Taliban commander known as Hamza Mehsud was killed. And on June 29, an al Qaeda operative from Egypt known as Hawza al Jawfi was killed in South Waziristan.

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.”]

In early April, a top terrorist leader claimed that the US program had been crippled. 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 Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer. 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.]

But the US scored its biggest success in the air campaign in Pakistan in May of this year. On May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda’s top leaders, and the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date.

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. He served on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani and US officials believed that one of the top Taliban leaders in Pakistan was killed in a strike this year. Up until May 2, 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. The CIA had been furiously hunting Hakeemullah after he appeared on a videotape with the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on Combat Outpost Chapman.

But after four months of silence on the subject, the Taliban released two tapes to prove that Hakeemullah is alive. On both of the tapes, Hakeemullah said the Taliban will carry out attacks inside the US. The tapes were released within 24 hours of an attempted car bombing in New York City by Faisal Shahzad, who was trained by the Taliban in North Waziristan. Hakeemullah’s tapes were released along with another by his deputy, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing in New York City. A martydom tape of Shahzad, who was captured by the FBI on May 3, was released on July 14.

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US Predator strike kills 10 in North Waziristan

July 15, 2010

US strikes al Qaeda safehouse in South Waziristan

June 29, 2010

Al Qaeda commander killed in US strike on safehouse in South Waziristan

June 27, 2010

US airstrike kills 2 in North Waziristan

June 26, 2010

US strike kills 16 in North Waziristan

June 19, 2010

US kills 14 in 2 strikes in North Waziristan

June 11, 2010

US Predator strike kills 3 in North Waziristan

June 10, 2010

US kills 11 in Predator strike in South Waziristan

May 28, 2010

US airstrike kills 6 in North Waziristan

May 21, 2010

US Predators carry out first strike in Khyber

May 15, 2010

US pounds Taliban in pair of strikes in North Waziristan

May 11, 2010

US airstrike kills 10 ‘rebels’ in North Waziristan

May 9, 2010

US airstrike kills 4 ‘militants’ in North Waziristan

May 3, 2010

US strike kills 8 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 26, 2010

US airstrike kills 7 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 24, 2010

US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan

April 16, 2010

US strike kills 4 in Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan

April 14, 2010

US strike kills 5 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 12, 2010

US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan

March 30, 2010

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

March 27, 2010

US kills 6 in strike against Haqqani Network

March 23, 2010

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

March 21, 2010

US kills 8 terrorists in 2 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

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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