US drones kill 8 in pair of strikes in North Waziristan


The US again targeted terrorists operating in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing eight "militants" in two airstrikes.

In the first strike, the unmanned Predators or Reapers fired four missiles at a compound in the village of Hassokhel, near Miramshah, according to AFP. The remotely piloted strike aircraft circled back and fired four more missiles at the compound, Pakistani officials told the news service. One Pakistani official told AFP that Hassokhel "was known for harbouring Uzbek, Arab and other foreign militants." The AFP report said "at least five" militants were killed in the strike.

In the second strike, three more "militants" were killed when the drones fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, AFP reported.

No senior leaders from al Qaeda, the Taliban, or other allied terror groups have been reported killed in either strike.

A US intelligence official involved in the drone program in the country told The Long War Journal that the strikes would continue now that Pakistan has refused to reopen NATO's supply lines for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"There certainly hasn't been a shortage of targets in Pakistan's tribal areas," the official said. "Unfortunately the politics of getting the GLOC into Afghanistan has trumped the targeting of bad guys in Pakistan's tribal areas," the official said, referring to the Ground Lines of Communication.

The drone program was scaled back dramatically from the end of March to the beginning of the fourth week in May. Between March 30 and May 22, the US conducted only three drones strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas as US officials attempted to renegotiate the reopening of NATO's supply lines.

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 town serves as one of the "ground zeros" of terror groups based in North Waziristan, the US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Other main centers of terror activity in North Waziristan include Datta Khel, Mir Ali, and the Shawal Valley.

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.

The Datta Khel area 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.

Datta Khel is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. While Bahadar administers the region, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadi groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army, is known to have a command center in Datta Khel. Some of al Qaeda's top leaders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, have been killed in drone strikes in Datta Khel.

Background on the US strikes in Pakistan

The US has now launched five strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas in the past six days, and six strikes total this month. The US launched the first of the last five 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 18 strikes so far this year. Three took place in South Waziristan, and 15 in North Waziristan. Ten of the 15 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 17 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.



Advertisement:


READER COMMENTS: "US drones kill 8 in pair of strikes in North Waziristan"

Posted by sports at May 27, 2012 9:25 PM ET:

Kinda seems like we're waging an informal war against the Paki's. I think we can manufacture drones and bombs faster than they can recruit new terrorists.

Posted by mike merlo at May 27, 2012 9:51 PM ET:

The fact that the Administration has allowed this instrument of warfare to be used as a political bargaining chip is extremely ignorant.

Posted by Don at May 28, 2012 3:16 AM ET:

I've noticed the sudden escalation in UAV attacks in the FATA in the past week and wondered if there might be a connection between the PAK intransigence on the GLOC issue and the Chicago summit. This is the first confirmation I've seen.

It makes sense on the geopolitical and grand strategy fronts. Resumed UAV strikes in the FATA keep rubbing the PAK government's nose in the fact that they really have no leverage over Coalition actions, having essentially discarded the only bargaining chip they had (i.e., the GLOCs). Grand strategy-wise, the lack of GLOCs through PAK makes it logistically-challenging for reluctant NATO partners (how does one spell "French?") to punch out early without paying a premium to ship their heavy gear home. This logistics challenge may make some partners remain longer: at least through the fighting season and perhaps the next one.

The PAKs don't want to play ball -- heck, they CAN'T play ball because they've so effectively whipped up public frenzy against the US. Now, they can't get off the petard they've hoisted themselves upon. The government (pick one, since they have three -- Army, ISI, and Civilian) can't forge a unified front in the national interest, since they're all so obsessed with their personal agendas. By mobilizing public opinion (a purely tactical move) they painted themselves into a corner and now have ZIP for political maneuvering room.

It appears our strategy is now to stop giving them political space to manage the unmanageable problem they've created. Instead, we're ratcheting up the pressure to force them to choose who they want as an enemy -- NATO, or the Taliban they've been bankrolling.

PAK is on the ropes economically. Major cities are enduring 20 hour daily power blackouts, militia groups the PAK military depends on to maintain order in the FATA (similar to the Afghan Local Police) are unpaid and beginning to desert, and the US Senate just chopped half their military aid (to which they responded by sentencing the physician who helped us find bin Laden to 33 years in prison for treason).

I guess we're now playing the "Who can bear the most pain and still keep grinning?" game.

A smoking crater where ISI HQ currently stands would cure a lot of ills.

Don // Kabul

Posted by Neo at May 29, 2012 9:48 AM ET:

At this point, there really isn’t a choice for the U.S. The conditions on signing a transport deal essentially entail shutting down cross border strikes. The Pakistani government (army) has long ago moved to a position freely allowing the cross border Taliban insurgency. If the U.S. wishes to continue acting against Taliban insurgents, it does so against the wishes of the Pakistani army.

In addition, Pakistan’s civilian government is now weakened to the point where it really has no say in the matter, even if it wanted too. Rather than outright deposing the civilian government, the military and legal establishment have essentially neutralized civilian government leaders, politically and through court action.

I’m not sure the U.S. is going to be quite as provocative as some in this comment section would like. It looks like we will move against Taliban targets as needed, and defend our interests without the Pakistanis. We aren’t going to take direct military action against Pakistan either though.

Posted by Villiger at May 29, 2012 1:47 PM ET:

Don, good summary thank you. And on that smoking crater at the ISI Hq could really serve as a magic bullet, including for many free-thinking Paqistanis.

I'm curious though about how the US is managing its fuel supply-chain in the meantime, if you care to shed any light.

I doubt if any of us here would've guessed 6 months ago that the US could actually be free of being dependent upon the Paqis for its supply lines. Now that ISAF is, this leverage must be optimized. Tough talk and action is the only language the Paqistanis understand. We are at a strategic inflection point at the moment in defining this relationship. A healthy and commensurate degree of punishment would be highly appropriate at this juncture than lining their illegitimate pockets with an extortionate 5,000 bucks a truck.

Posted by Devin Leonard at May 29, 2012 4:02 PM ET:

This is good work by the Obama admin. We are ignoring the Pakis bullcrap about not using drone strikes and using them anyways....we need to keep it up. We also need to make it clear that they will get ZERO aid untill they re-open the southern route...PERIOD!

Posted by sports at May 31, 2012 1:01 AM ET:

Lot's of good comments...I especially like the comment that we keep applying the pressure with a smile...priceless!