Report: US airstrike kills 4 in North Waziristan

The US has conducted another airstrike inside Pakistani territory, according to reports from Pakistan. This is the fourth US cross-strike inside Pakistan in five days.

Four people were reported killed in an attack on a home in village of Char Khel in North Waziristan, anonymous intelligence officials told AFP. The owner of home is known to “host foreigners,” a local told the news agency.

It is unclear if any senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were killed in the attack.

The village of Char Khel lies about four miles from the Afghan border. The village is in territory run by the powerful Haqqani family.

The Haqqani family is closely allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Haqqanis run a parallel government in North Waziristan and conduct military and suicide operations in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, the son of Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is one of the most wanted terrorists in Afghanistan.

The US military targeted the Haqqani network several times this year. On March 12, the US military fired guided missiles from Afghanistan into a compound run by Siraj Haqqani, the wanted Taliban leader behind numerous attacks in Afghanistan. The attack is believed to have killed three senior Haqqani network commanders and “many” Chechen fighters.

Cross-border strikes increase during 2008

There have been 11 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year. Five safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, four have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. Only 10 such cross-border strikes were recorded in 2006 and 2007 combined.

Today’s attack is the fifth cross-border strike since Aug. 20 and the fourth since Aug. 31. Two Canadians of Arab origin were killed in a strike in strike in South Waziristan last weekend.

US forces launched a controversial helicopter strike in South Waziristan in a village just one mile from the Afghan border just two days ago. A senior US military intelligence official and a US military officer, both who wished to remain anonymous, told The Long War Journal the strike involved a “handful” of US helicopters and special operations teams. The official and officer would not comment on the target of the raid.

The Pakistani government has condemned the attack as a violation of “territorial integrity.” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi described the attack as an “unforgivable incident,” claiming only women and children were killed in the assault.

The US government and military have not commented on the attack.

Background on this year’s attacks

Three senior al Qaeda operatives have been confirmed killed during this year’s cross-border strikes in Pakistan.

Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s bomb expert and weapons of mass destruction chief, was killed South Waziristan on July 28. Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda’s external operations chief, was killed in Bajaur on May 14. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior commander in Afghanistan and the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was killed in North Waziristan on Jan. 28.

While the strikes have disrupted al Qaeda’s senior leadership, they have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.

Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. On July 23, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.

For more information on the Haqqani family, see:

The Haqqani Network: Reign of terror, Aug. 2, 2008

Targeting Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani, Oct. 20, 2007

Bill Roggio :Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.