US kills 4 'militants' in latest Predator strike in Pakistan


US Predators or the more deadly Reapers struck for the third time in three days in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Unmanned Predator or Reaper strike aircraft fired two missiles today at a known Taliban compound in the village of Khushali Toorikhel near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Four "militants" were reported killed in the airstrike.

"We can now confirm that four militants were killed when a US drone fired two missiles on a militant compound," a senior Pakistani security official told AFP.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed in the strike, and the target has not been disclosed.

The village of Khushali Toorikhel is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Bahadar struck a deal with the Pakistani government not to shelter Taliban fighters from Hakeemullah Mehsud's branch of the Taliban, which is based in South Waziristan. But Bahadar has repeatedly violated his pact with the Pakistani government.

The US has carried out one other strike in the village of Khushali Toorikhel, on April 26, 2010. In that attack, US strike aircraft fired three missiles at the compound owned by known "local rebel commander Haleem Khan," killing eight suspected militants who were thought to be from South Waziristan.

Bahadar's tribal areas hit hard in Predator attacks

The areas in North Waziristan controlled by Bahadar and by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network have been hit especially hard by the US this year. In 2010 so far, 76 percent of the year's strikes have hit targets in territory controlled by Bahadar (36 strikes) or Haqqani (20 strikes). Eleven of the 20 strikes in Pakistan this month have hit targets in Bahadar's territory.

Bahadar provides shelter to top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups. Several of al Qaeda's top commanders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, the chief financial official and commander in Afghanistan, and Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of al Qaeda's military, have been killed in Predator strikes in Bahadar's areas in the last year.

The Pakistani government and military refuse to take action against Bahadar as he is considered a "good Taliban" leader. Bahadar, like the Haqqanis, does not advocate attacks against the Pakistani state and is viewed as strategic depth against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

The pace of the strikes this month is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. The 20 strikes this month is a record number. The previous high was 11 strikes in January 2010, after the Taliban and al Qaeda executed a successful suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that targeted CIA personnel who were active in gathering intelligence for the Predator campaign in Pakistan. In the bombing at COP Chapman, seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed.

The US has carried out 74 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years ago. The US exceeded last year's strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram late last month. In 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes inside Pakistan. [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.]

All but eight of this year's 74 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the eight strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, six took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.

The US campaign in northwestern Pakistan has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda's external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states as well as support al Qaeda's external operations. [For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special Report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]



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READER COMMENTS: "US kills 4 'militants' in latest Predator strike in Pakistan"

Posted by blert at September 27, 2010 4:28 PM ET:

Such anti-vehicular strikes have to make each commute an adventure.

More and more it appears that the CIA intends to stop road movement.

Such a tactic would seem to cramp media operations, at the very least.

More generally, Bahadar and the Haqqani Network must eventually run out of 'cousin-blood' executives.

Increasingly sloppy Afghan operations imply that leadership depletion has reached some critical threshold.

Posted by kp at September 27, 2010 5:57 PM ET:

Another viewpoint of the "hit a vehicle" tactic is you minimize collateral damage of civilians. You kill just the people you intend to kill and no others.

This has an useful psychological effect on the non-Taliban/HN/AQ/etc population: we are killing them not you. This is very useful when they choose to emplace themselves in "safe houses" where the locals aren't actually that welcome to see them but are coerced by the local chiefs to take them in.

It probably also reduces the pressure the Pak government feels from the locals (though in the FATA they perhaps already have some dislike for the central govt).

The repeated tactics (attacking FOBs with little success) might indicate that "strategic" direction given some time ago but not updated as communication with the leadership is now more difficult than it was. This might also make more targets available from e.g. people using phones or radio to communicate with a new commander now the old one is dead; traveling to meet up with others to known safe houses; attending funerals, etc. Tracking these movements builds up an underlying database of locations in use by whom and how they're connected to others. The CIA has probably been collecting this sort of info for some time. With pressure on the AFG/PAK border they can now make use of this info.

They can even stimulate the network with this sort of vehicle attack: you know (from your database and through current IMGINT) that say IMU foot soldiers are using a particular compound. You watch and listen to them to see how they're connected to other safe houses. Once you determine who is the local commander you hit him out in a vehicle. Then you watch and listen. Sort of a Reconnaissance by fire. Who comes to pick up the bodies? Where do the bodies get taken to (they must be buried in a day)? Where do they get buried? Who attends the burial? Where do they go?

Final point: unlike the CIA we don't know who they're killing. As I've pointed out before you can tell by dress, by listening to radio, by preferred vehicle driven which group you are dealing with. I suspect most of these killed are not "locals" but are Afghans and "foreigners" given the number of times that term comes up in the Pak news reports. We don't seem to be killing a huge number of SH direct relatives (the odd one but not a huge number).

Posted by Render at September 28, 2010 2:19 AM ET:

Perhaps an end of season spasm? Twice as large as last years, and four times as large as two years ago?

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