The front gate of the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa in North Waziristan. Photo by The Asia Times.
The Sept. 8 air attack in North Waziristan hit the main madrassa run by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani family in North Waziristan, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The Predator attack, the latest in a series of strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies, was designed to “send a message” to the Haqqani Network.
The US launched several missiles at the notorious Manba Ulom madrassa and an adjacent home in the town of Danda Darpa Khel on the outskirts of Miramshah in North Waziristan. More than 20 were killed in the attack, but Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the Haqqani family, and Siraj, his son, were not at the madrassa. Reports from Pakistan indicate nine Arab al Qaeda operatives and six Taliban fighters were killed in the strike, along with a sister of Jalaluddin.
The purpose of today’s strike was to put the Haqqani family on notice, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal on the condition of anonymity. The senior leaders of the Haqqani Network are not believed to shelter in the madrassa often, but the symbolic value of hitting the site is crucial. “We want the Haqqanis to know we will hit them anywhere,” the official said.
The Haqqani Network inside Pakistan has been in the US’ crosshairs of late. The US has conducted seven airstrikes and raids in North and neighboring South Waziristan since Aug. 31. Five of the strikes have been aimed at the compounds owned by the Haqqani Network.
These cross-border raids are not expected to let up, several senior US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal.
The Haqqani’s madrassa and network
The madrassa hit just outside Miramshah has both an operational and a symbolic value. The Manba Ulom madrassa was established by Jalaluddin and was used in the 1980s to train mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The Asia Times’ Syed Saleem Shahzad, who interviewed Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin and a senior military commander in Afghanistan, described the madrassa as “a center of jihadi activities.”
The Pakistani government closed the madrassa down in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004, The Asia Times reported. Since then, Taliban fighters and members of al Qaeda’s network are known to shelter in the madrassa compound.
The madrassa also serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network, while the forward operating command center is located in the village of Zambar in the northern Sabari district in Khost province, Afghanistan. The network is active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces.
The Manba Ulom was recently raided by Pakistani security forces, but no Taliban or al Qaeda fighters were found. Hundreds of paramilitaries from the Frontier Corps and the Levies surrounded the madrassa on July 30, but the search came up empty.
The Haqqanis are believed to have extensive links with Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI. This relationship has allowed the Haqqani network to survive and thrive in North Waziristan, and emerge from raids like the one on July 30 unscathed. The Haqqanis control large swaths of North Waziristan, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces.
The Haqqani family is believed to be behind some of the more spectacular attacks in Afghanistan.
The Haqqanis took credit for the January 14 assault against the five-star Serena hotel in downtown Kabul, which left seven people dead. A March 3 suicide truck bombing against the Sabari district headquarters in Khost, Afghanistan destroyed the building and killed two US soldier in a guard tower. The Haqqanis were also behind the April 27 mortar and machine-gun attack on a military parade in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai and several senior dignitaries were present at the event.
The most devastating attack occurred against the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7. Two Senior Indian officials were among 41 killed in the suicide strike. Recent communications intercepts by US and Indian intelligence agencies reportedly confirm a link between ISI officers and Haqqani operatives. The attack is said to have been jointly planned and executed.
Siraj Haqqani has risen in prominence over the past year, and is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks as well as the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. A $200,000 reward has been issued for the capture of Siraj and 11 other senior and mid-level Taliban, al Qaeda, and other allied commanders.
Siraj is believed to be dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extends all the way to Osama bin Laden.
“Siraj is part of a younger, more aggressive generation of Taliban senior leadership,” said US Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Anders, then the director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force-82 in October 2007. Siraj has focused recruiting and training foreign fighters from Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey, and Arab countries to fight against US forces and serve as suicide bombers both inside and outside of Afghanistan.
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I might have agreed had I not watched carefully as the FBI tried to find a fugitive in our own country who was considered the same sort of priority as OBL and the others. His name was Eric Robert Rudolph and he was convicted of various bombings including the one at the Atlanta Olympics. Take a look at the Wikipedia article for more info.
Various federal agencies combed the North Carolina mountains with a “fine tooth comb” for almost 5 years before a local cop finally stumbled across the guy. With OBL, you are talking about a much larger area, much tougher terrain, a local populous ready to shoot any intruders in the area who are from the US or its agents, speaking a language most of our operatives do not understand, and with regional militias and heavy weapons. It does not surprise me in the least that it is taking longer than did a search in our own country, without any significant risks to our law enforcement agencies as they performed the search, with a somewhat supportive local populace, and with much easier terrain.
And within Al Qaeda, I am certain that their are multiple layers of “cutouts” or blind links for communication between these guys and the rest of the organization. That way trying to infiltrate and backtrack the trail of communication becomes quite complex.
I feel certain the “bearded special forces” you mention are well implanted within the local populace, and that many things are occurring of which we will never hear. In time our efforts will bear fruit. Maybe today, maybe next year, maybe later than that. Our military is “working it hard”. Of that I am certain. And like many, I am thankful for and awed by their efforts.
tyrone: “Our military is “working it hard”. Of that I am certain. And like many, I am thankful for and awed by their efforts.”
Amen to that brother!
Its exciting to see that pressure is being
applied on the reforming center of gravity
in the war on AQ.
Keep up the pressure. This kind of disruption inside of Pakistan, where they thought they were safe, might just be what we need to take some of the heat off of Afghanistan and let the Afghan National Army get some more confidence. Hitting the leaders and command centers is great, but ultimately, ANA and ISAF are going to need to clear, hold and build on the large swaths of territory.
Jonathan Walker showed it was possible to join AQ, the problem is the CIA etc. is so worried about liability they rather go the safer route and do electronic intercepts and look at sat. pictures. No worries about getting front page of the NY Times.
The key to the significant uptick in ops-tempo is two-fold in my opinion. First, Musharraf is gone, so we no longer have the pretext of trying to support a purported ally in the WOT. Second, and far more important, is that the culpability of the ISI is becoming irrefutable. The downside risks or the need to play footsie are going away. It is clear that our enemy is operating from the Pak tribal belt. Likewise, it is clear that the Pak government cannot or will not do anything to curb this activity. Given these now well known realities, the US can conduct ever more severe raids in these areas. The old saw of territorial integrity is a myth that all but the most anti-US elements must acknowledge.
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/09/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
Thank you, LWJ, for your ongoing coverage of this historic struggle. Certainly making martyrs out of the HVTs will not stop the ideology of islamic fanaticism.
As Bill Roggio and Brent Winterble observe repeatedly, this war wiil take a long time. But like the war against piracy in the 18th century, and the war against anarchism, facsism, and communism in the late 19th and 20 centuries, eventually secular freedom will prevail.
The example of Iraq as an Islamic country that can incorporate secularism should shine as a beacon of hope to sane people in Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, and other places where religious ideology has replaced the writ of civil governance. President Bush in a speech this morning at a national defence institute made this point before moving his focus to Afghanistan and “parts” of Pakistan. I thought his comments was a clear policy statement that the war must be taken to the terrorists, wherever they prepare and plot murder in the name of ideology.
Yes, the efforts to target fanatics inside Pakistan have been “tepid” for years. But I personally don’t think the effort is simply “politicised”. Now that most Pakistanis see the danger, I think they will welocme an all-out attack on these “safe haven.” It’s time!
Paul, Agreed OBL,Omar, and Zawahri are more than likely in a City like Quetta or Lahore. These guys will let the middle men take the hammer in the NWFT. I think when we get these guys, and we will, its only a matter of time, they will not be in a cave or hut.
Killed: Abu Haris (Al Qaeda chief in Pakistan); Abdullah, a Saudi; Abu Hamza, another Saudi; and Zain Ul Abu Qasim, an Egyptian.
Here’s the link for the information provided by JoJo.
CNN: Guard: Al Qaeda chief in Pakistan killed
What concerns me about this long term safe haven in Pakistan for OBL & Co. since 9/11 is as follows:
1. There is no evidence to suggest they have any less motivation than pre-9/11
2. There is no reason to doubt the funding for their operations has diminished
3. They are very, very patient and go back to targets previously missed
4. They have had ample time to prepare for large-scale operations
5. Since 9/11 security investments have challenged them to utilize resources which may have extended/complicated operational planning (comparatively to pre-9/11 or not)
6. WMD, including nukes & bio are sought-after weapons according to their propaganda (no reason to doubt)
I hope it does not take another catastrophic event to provide the impetus to eliminate the perpetrators of 9/11. This is not a criticism of the US or the great men and women of our armed forces and law enforcement.
This is more encouraging news that AQ is getting damaged. Thanks to LWJ we can read the news that is not in the MSM. It seems they are going after AQ much more.
The bombing of camps/compounds should be expanded. The US should be using the heavy bombers to obliterate these places. A couple Hellfire’s are a good start, but this needs to be ratcheted up. Let the P-stani’s protest all they want.
REMOTEMAN is correct. P-stani “soveriegnty” in these areas is a joke. They govern NOTHING here. Put the strike packages together and bomb the camps and compunds to dust. It will keep them on the run, scatter them like rats, and make it easier for US forces to pick them off. Time’s a wastin here.