As the Pakistani military is launching airstrikes against foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party in an operation that began on June 15, the US has entered the fray and killed six “militants” in a drone strike in the tribal agency. The strike is the third in the past week.
The unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired several missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Darga Mandi in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, Dawn reported. The village is just outside of Miramshah, the home of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda.
The exact target of the strike and the identities of those killed have not been disclosed. Jihadist groups operating in the area have not commented on the strike.
The airstrike is the second in Darga Mandi in the past week. On June 11, the US killed four “Uzbeks,” likely from the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and two members of the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab in an attack on the village.
In addition to the two strikes in the past week, the US has launched five other strikes in Darga Mandi since the drone program in Pakistan began in 2005. In one strike, on Sept. 5, 2013, the US killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, an al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network leader who was also the Taliban’s shadow governor for Afghanistan’s Paktika province. Zadran had held Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who was recently exchanged for five top Taliban leaders detained at Guantanamo Bay.
In the second strike last week, on June 12, the US killed 10 Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders in the nearby village of Danda Darpa Khel. The strike is said to have killed Haji Gul, a senior Haqqani Network commander, and two leading Afghan Taliban commanders known as Mufti Sofian and Commander Abu Bakar. [See LWJ report, Drone strike killed Haqqani Network, Afghan Taliban commanders.]
The June 11 and 12 strikes were the first in Pakistan since Dec. 25, 2013. The US put the program on hold after the Pakistani government entered into peace talks with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that there was no shortage of al Qaeda and other terrorists to target during the six-month lull. [See LWJ report, US launches 2 drone strikes in Pakistan, breaks 6-month lull.]
Today’s strike also coincides with Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan. The military claims it has killed more than 180 “terrorists” and “foreigners,” and zero civilians, during a series of airstrikes in North Waziristan.
The Pakistani military appears to be focusing on foreign terrorist groups as well as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and is not confronting the Haqqani Network or the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group. These two independent Taliban factions are considered “good Taliban” as they do not openly advocate attacking the Pakistan state. But The Haqqanis and the Bahadar group, the two most powerful Taliban factions in North Waziristan, shelter and support al Qaeda, IMU, TIP, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (the “bad Taliban”). [See LWJ report, Pakistan launches ‘comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists’ in North Waziristan, and Threat Matrix report, Pakistani forces focus on ‘foreigners’ in North Waziristan operation.]