US drones target Haqqani Network in North Waziristan strike
The US killed three Haqqani Network members in a strike today in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike is just the third in Pakistan this month.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Darga Mandi in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan, Pakistani security officials told AFP. The identities of the fighters who were killed have not been disclosed.
Today's strike in Darga Mandi is the second in the village this month, and the third strike in Pakistan in September. On Sept. 5, the US killed four Haqqani Network fighters in a strike in the village. Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani network leader, is rumored to have been killed in the strike. His death has not been confirmed.
Over the past year, the Haqqani Network has been in the crosshairs of the CIA. The US killed a Haqqani Network leader known as Maulana Akhtar Zadran along with Abu Saif al Jaziri, an al Qaeda military commander from the Lashkar al Zil, in a drone strike in North Waziristan on July 2. And earlier this month, the Taliban confirmed that Badruddin Haqqani, a top leader of the group, was killed in a US drone attack in August 2012.
The Haqqani Network is a powerful Taliban faction that operates in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, and is based in North Waziristan in Pakistan. The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and is supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Siraj is the operational commander of the Haqqani Network and leads the Miramshah Shura, one of four major Taliban regional councils. Siraj is also a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
Since 2008, nine top Haqqani Network leaders, including Sirajuddin, have been placed on the US list of terrorists; six of them were designated in 2011. All of them have ties to al Qaeda. Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the group, is also a senior Afghan Taliban leader, but has not been added to the list. For more information on the Haqqani Network, see LWJ report, US adds Haqqani Network to list of terror groups.
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 the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar's fighters 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 against US drone strikes.
The US has launched 22 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.
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 been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 347 strikes recorded since 2004, 337, or 97%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies. But al Qaeda is known to have an extensive network throughout Pakistan.