2 'militants' reported killed in US drone strike in Pakistan


US drones are reported to have killed two "militants," including a "foreign national," as they rode on horseback in the terrorist hub of Datta Khel in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike today is the first reported by the US in Pakistan in 29 days.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a pair of "militants" as they were riding horses in the village of Degan in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The two militants and their horses are reported to have been killed, Pakistani intelligence officials told Dawn.

The identities and affiliation of those killed have not been disclosed. AFP reported that a "foreign national" was killed in the strike.

Today's strike in North Waziristan is the first reported in Pakistan's tribal areas since Feb. 8, when US drones killed two Arab al Qaeda operatives and four Uzbeks in North Waziristan. The Arabs were identified as Sheikh Abu Waqas, a Yemeni explosives expert, and Abu Majid al Iraqi. The four Uzbeks, who were likely from the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, were not identified. The strike took place as the foreign fighters were having dinner with members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. A previous strike, on Feb. 6 in North Waziristan, is said to have killed five militants.

The two strikes in February have recently stirred up some controversy. The New York Times reported earlier this month that those two strikes were not carried out by the US. The report was based on interviews with "three American officials with knowledge of the program." The officials claimed one of the strikes was likely a Pakistani operation and that the other explosion may have been caused by infighting within the Taliban.

However, US intelligence officials involved with the drone program in Pakistan have told The Long War Journal that the two February strikes were indeed US operations.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's public relations branch, denied The New York Times report and claimed it was a "distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan's stance on drone strikes."

Datta Khel area is a terrorist hub

The Datta Khel area, where today's strike took place, 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 jihadist groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army, is known to operate 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.

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. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan in protest of US drone strikes.

Bahadar and the Taliban maintain a "peace agreement" with the Pakistani military that allows him to run a state within a state in the remote tribal agency. Bahadar and his commanders have set up a parallel administration, complete with courts, recruiting centers, prisons, training camps, and the ability to levy taxes.

The peace agreement allows North Waziristan to serve as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and nonaligned Taliban groups, as well as the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.

Bahadar wields considerable power in North Waziristan. In July 2011, a spokesman for Bahadar claimed that there were no "militants" in North Waziristan, and that Bahadar's Taliban faction has lived up to its terms of a peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Bahadar's Taliban subgroup is a member of the Shura-e-Murakeba, an al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-brokered alliance that includes the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the Mullah Nazir Group in South Waziristan.

In June 2012, Bahadar suspended polio vaccination programs in North Waziristan in protest against the US drone strikes in North Waziristan. Bahadar has objected to the US drone strikes in the past. On Nov. 12, 2011, Bahadar suspended meetings with the government and threatened to attack the Pakistani state if it continued to allow the US to conduct attacks in areas under his control.

The US has conducted numerous airstrikes against terrorist targets in areas under Bahadar's control. Of the 335 drone strikes that have taken place in Pakistan's tribal areas, 93 of the strikes, or nearly 28 percent, have occurred in areas directly under the control of Bahadar. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2013, for information on US airstrikes.]

The US has targeted al Qaeda's top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have mostly been confined to a small kill box consisting of North and South Waziristan. Of the 335 strikes recorded since 2004, 318, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.



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READER COMMENTS: "2 'militants' reported killed in US drone strike in Pakistan"

Posted by m3fd2002 at March 10, 2013 11:01 AM ET:

Two on horseback. Could be a high value target. Let's wait and see.

Posted by JT at March 10, 2013 11:02 AM ET:

Here's hoping that the PETA lobby doesn't get involved and get attention in the media. Perhaps the foreign national was a HVT such as Zawahiri. One can hope.

Posted by Pat at March 10, 2013 11:31 AM ET:

'Hey it is a nice day out, want to go horseback riding...'

Posted by jayc at March 10, 2013 12:07 PM ET:

Dang CIA. I guess this gives new meaning to the old 70's movie, "They shoot horses, don't they?" Sorry, Bill, I couldn't resist.

Posted by JRP at March 10, 2013 12:50 PM ET:

I too think this might be a HVT, but doubt so high as to be Zawahiri.

On a change of subject . . . Anyone with any thoughts on North Korea's threat to make a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S.?

This really came out of left field and I'm more than a little worried that this was not just bombastic rhetoric for domestic consumption. North Korea historically has acted on impulse. This is a threat that should be taken very seriously, but is getting very little attention in the mainstream media and apparently very little attention in Washington D.C. Our new Sec'y of Defense should make Beijing and Seoul his next two overseas trips and ASAP!

Posted by Kevin Cooney at March 10, 2013 1:39 PM ET:

Sorry to hear about the horses. The other two animals? Not so much.

Posted by mike merlo at March 10, 2013 2:24 PM ET:

following his confirmation its good to 'see' Brennan got 'right to work!'

Posted by Robert at March 10, 2013 2:38 PM ET:

@JRP...from what I have been reading about NK, it seems they really don't have the where-with-all to match their threats with hardware...Seol is gonna be a shit place to live, I think, as it is the main target of NK...I still haven't read any good intel on the motivation of the New Kim...and/or his handlers...I don't think they have to have a "reason" to threaten anyone...Insanity within the upper ranks is my theory...we know what will happen if there is an "exchange" of nukes...Old Kim loves round ball, yet wants to NUKE it? this is just adding up to more bluster and bullshit, trying not to look weak, and saving face...unless I am terribly wrong... it has been known to happen...

Posted by Birbal Dhar at March 10, 2013 2:54 PM ET:

I wonder whether Al Qaeda will make a martyr video on those poor horses, who were forced to carry these evil islamic terrorists. Perhaps the horses will have 99 virgins to have sex with, when they go to heaven !!

Posted by JT at March 10, 2013 2:57 PM ET:

I too wonder about the emphasis on the lack of North Korea's ability to mount a bomb on a missile. They can be carried by boats, planes, cars, etc. Kind of like the over-emphasis on knives on planes after 9-11-01. A ball point pen could have been used with the same results.

Here's hoping that behind the scenes, very much is indeed going on with candid talk and contingent planning with respect to 1 - Syria's WMDs, 2 - North Korea's WMDs, 3 - Pakistan's nukes, and 4 - Iran-North Korea cooperation. Not to mention various terrorist groups involved all over the place (e.g, Yemen, Mali, Syria, etc.).

Posted by Shaukat Alvi at March 10, 2013 3:01 PM ET:

This is indiscrimination to kill people like this. Americans are not happy with drone attacks, then how come they are happening. Because here you do not know how many and who are killed. It is very unfortunate that "may be they were innocent civilians on horse back ride travel. The names and identity should be revealed to the public so that we are sure that we are not killing innocent humans.
USA consider life of the people very precious then why are they not disclosing the name of those killed in this strike to make sure no innocent on earth is killed.

Posted by Nic at March 10, 2013 5:15 PM ET:

"US drones are reported to have killed two "militants," including a "foreign national," as they rode on horseback". The militants were trying to be "stealthy" by using the horses because they knew that if they used a truck or SUV they would get wacked.

Posted by David at March 10, 2013 5:16 PM ET:

@JRP

I realize that this is just speculation, but I don't think they advertise these things before they do them, when it happens for real. If they're telling us about it, its a bluff, IMHO. Especially with their track record for extortion of aid.

Posted by Moose at March 10, 2013 6:26 PM ET:

RIP horses.

Posted by gb at March 10, 2013 9:00 PM ET:

@shauhkat an American can't swing a kat without hitting a savage terrorist in that region...I'll give the CIA dudes the benefit of the doubt on this kill....well not for the horses but for the burnt up up terrorists..keep up the good strikes.

Posted by KaneKaizer at March 11, 2013 5:02 AM ET:

Horseback? That's the first time I've ever heard of such a strike. It definitely sounds like they knew who they were targeting, though. I've been hoping that the CIA would step it up, at least whacking as many HVTs as possible, since we're not sticking around for the long haul.

Posted by popseal at March 11, 2013 7:29 PM ET:

Too bad about the horse, they're noble creatures unlike the dirt bags riding it in this instance.