US Predators struck again in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today, killing 20 “militants” at a camp on the border with Afghanistan.
Unmanned Predators or the heavily armed and deadly Reapers fired at least six missiles at a training camp and a vehicle in the village of Bangi Darra in the Ghulam Khan area, just north of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
More than 20 “militants” were reported killed in the strike, according Geo News. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that 15 Taliban fighters under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar were killed in the strike. Four “foreigners,” a term used to describe al Qaeda and Central Asian fighters, were reported to be among those killed. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed in strike.
The strike in Ghulam Khan is the second in the area in five days. A strike on Nov. 11 targeted a group of Haqqani Network “fighters” returning to North Waziristan from across the border in Khost province in Afghanistan.
The Ghulam Khan area is in the sphere of influence of both Hafiz Gul Bahhadar and the Haqqani Network.
Bahadar is the overall Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Bahadar provides shelter to top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.
The Haqqani Network is 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. Siraj Haqqani is the leader of the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan 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 Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The US has targeted Siraj and other top-level Haqqani Network commanders since 2008. On Feb. 18 of this year, the US killed Mohammed Haqqani, another of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in an airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside Miramshah. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network. Siraj is believed to be sheltering in the neighboring tribal agency of Kurram to avoid the Predators.
The Haqqani Network operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. The US military has heavily targeted the Haqqani Network’s leadership in raids and airstrikes in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika.
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
Today’s strike is the ninth US attack in Pakistan this month. On Nov. 1, a strike in Mir Ali, a large town in North Waziristan, killed six “militants.” Three strikes on Nov. 3 killed 13 terrorists, and a pair of strikes on Nov. 7 killed 14 more. A Nov. 11 attack killed six Haqqani Network fighters as they returned from operations across the border in Khost province, Afghanistan. And the last strike, on Nov. 13, appears to have killed four civilians.
The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. September’s record number of 21 strikes was followed by 16 strikes in October. The previous monthly 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 100 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years earlier. A few months ago, the US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram in late August. In 2008, the US carried out a total of 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 nine of this year’s 100 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the nine strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, seven 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.]