The US launched another drone airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike is the second in two days.
The unmanned Predators or the more heavily armed Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan in the middle of the night, Geo News reported. Pakistani intelligence officials said that 10 “militants” were killed in the strike, according to Reuters.
No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or members of allied terrorist groups operating in the area have been reported killed in the strike. Mir Ali is known to host a variety of foreign and domestic Pakistani terror groups.
Today’s strike in Mir Ali is the second in two days, and the third strike this month. The US launched the two latest strikes just one day after it failed 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 troops. 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 15 strikes so far this year. Three took place in South Waziristan, and 12 in North Waziristan. Eight of the strikes in North Waziristan have been executed in or around Miramshah, and two have been in Mir Ali.
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.
The US has launched more strikes in Yemen (21) against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula than in Pakistan so far this year. The US only launched 10 airstrikes in Yemen in 2011, versus 64 in Pakistan last year.
Mir Ali is a terrorist haven
The Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area. Moreover, Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils.
Since Sept. 8, 2010, several Germans and Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the vicinity of Mir Ali. The IJG members are believed to have been involved in an al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modeled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. The plot was orchestrated by Ilyas Kashmiri, the al Qaeda leader who was killed in a US drone strike in June 2011.
Mir Ali also hosts at least three suicide training camps for the the Fedayeen-i-Islam, an alliance between the Pakistani Taliban, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. In early 2011, a Fedayeen-i-Islam spokesman claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers have trained at three camps. One failed suicide bomber corroborated the Fedayeen spokesman’s statement, claiming that more than 350 suicide bombers trained at his camp.
Prior to this year, the US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in the European plot. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region. These groups are given aid and shelter by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup run by Siraj and Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups 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 Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.