The US launched a pair of attacks in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan today, killing 22 Taliban fighters and “foreigners.”
In the first strike, unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers launched at least five missiles at a “fortress-like militant compound” that is used as a training camp. The camp is located in the village of Zoynarai in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, which borders South Waziristan.
“Local residents described the camp as a major training centre on the top of a hill surrounded by trees and ice cold natural springs,” Dawn reported.
More than 20 people, including “foreign and militants from Pakistan’s central Punjab province” were killed during the strike in Shawal. The term “foreigners” is used to describe members of al Qaeda and other terror groups from outside Pakistan that are allied with al Qaeda. Punjabi “militants” belong to terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.
After the strike on the compound, the Predators or Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in a village near the first strike, but across the border in South Waziristan. Four “militants” were killed in the attack, according to Reuters.
No senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied terror group leader has been reported killed at this time.
The Shawal area of North Waziristan is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the 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.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, the other major Taliban group based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
Today’s strikes take place just two days after the US launched three strikes in South Waziristan that killed 18 Taliban and Punjabi fighters. Four days ago, the US launched another strike in South Waziristan that also targeted Punjabi fighters. Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al Qaeda leader and the commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Brigade 313, is reported to have been killed in the strike, although the reports have not been confirmed. A purported statement released by HUJI announcing Kashmiri’s death contains errors, while a photograph supposedly showing Kashmiri after his death was that of a Lashkar-e-Taiba fighter killed during the November 2008 assault on Mumbai, India.
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
The US has carried out six strikes this month. Five of the six strikes have taken place in South Waziristan.
So far this year, the US has carried out 34 strikes in Pakistan, and is well off the pace of the 2010 total of 117 attacks. In 2010, the US more than doubled the number of strikes that had occurred in 2009; by late August 2010, the US had exceeded 2009’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram. 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 – 2011.]
In 2010 the strikes were concentrated almost exclusively in North Waziristan, where the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and a host of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups are based. All but 13 of the 117 strikes took place North Waziristan. Of the 13 strikes occurring outside of North Waziristan in 2010, seven were executed in South Waziristan, five were in Khyber, and one was in Kurram. That trend is largely holding true this year, but an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 24 of the 34 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan; the other 10 strikes have occurred in South Waziristan.
Since Sept. 1, 2010, the US has conducted 94 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks have aimed at the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 75 strikes in the tribal agency. Many of the strikes have targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, which have been plotting to conduct Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A Sept. 8 strike killed an IJG commander known as Qureshi, who specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.
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. The campaign has been largely successful in focusing on terrorist targets and avoiding civilian casualties, as recently affirmed by the Pakistani military.
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 – 2011.