4 'militants' killed in latest US drone strike in Pakistan
The US has launched yet another airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Today's attack is the third in the past five days, and the third since the US failed to get the supply lines through Pakistan reopened after NATO's Afghanistan summit in Chicago.
The unmanned Predators or the more heavily armed Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound "near Miramshah," the main town in North Waziristan, Pakistani officials told AFP. Four "militants" were killed in the attack.
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban officials have been reported killed in the strike. The Taliban cordoned off the scene of the strike to conduct recovery operations, which indicates that a high-value target may have been killed.
Miramshah serves as the headquarters of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and is supported by Pakistan's military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
The Haqqani Network is one of four major Taliban groups that have joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda late last year. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar's group; Mullah Nazir's group; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.
Today's strike near Miramshah is third in five days, and the fourth strike this month. The US launched the first of the last three strikes just one day after failing to convince Pakistan at a NATO summit in Chicago to reopen the supply lines to Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the supply lines following the Mohmand incident in November 2011, in which US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani soldiers were killed after they opened fire on US troops operating across the border in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
The US has carried out just 16 strikes so far this year. Three took place in South Waziristan, and 13 in North Waziristan. Nine of the 13 strikes in North Waziristan have been executed in or around Miramshah.
Two high-value targets have been killed in the strikes this year. A Jan. 11 strike killed Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda's external operations network. The US also killed Badr Mansoor, a senior Taliban and al Qaeda leader, in a Feb. 8 strike in Miramshah's bazaar.
The program has been scaled down from its peak in 2010, when the US conducted 117 strikes, according to data collected by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US carried out just 64 strikes in Pakistan's border regions. With only 13 strikes in the first five months of 2012, the US is on a pace to carry out just 36 strikes in Pakistan this year.
So far this year, the US has launched more strikes in Yemen (21) against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula than it has launched against al Qaeda and allied terror groups in Pakistan. In 2011, however, the US launched only 10 airstrikes in Yemen, versus 64 in Pakistan.