US strikes Taliban camp in South Waziristan

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.

The US has conducted another cross-border airstrike inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. The attack occurred in South Waziristan just as a senior US military commander completed a visit to Pakistan and urged the government to reform Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

The attack occurred in the Baghar Cheena region of the South Waziristan tribal agency, anonymous Pakistani intelligence sources told Geo TV. This is the same area where the US has conducted several strikes during this past week. At least four missiles were fired from unmanned Predator aircraft. The US military has not commented on the latest strike, but rarely admits to conducting cross-border attacks.

The target of the strike was a Taliban camp, according to reports. “There are a few militant training camps in the area and no civilian population around the site of strikes,” an official told Geo TV. Five Taliban fighters were killed and a weapons storage site was destroyed in the attack, Reuters reported.

The strike was the “result of US and Pakistani intelligence sharing,” a senior Pakistani official told Reuters. “It shows improving intelligence coordination on the ground.”

The report of coordinated action occurs as Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and other senior politicians and senior military leaders said Pakistan would not tolerate violations of Pakistan’s borders. Yesterday, the chief spokesman for the military said the military had orders to “open fire” on US forces attempting to cross the border.

Today’s strike follows an unannounced visit to Pakistan by Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen met with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff to discuss the situation in Pakistan’s tribal areas and assured them the US respects Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The US has also ratcheted up pressure on the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan’s primary military intelligence agency. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher upbraided the ISI for having direct links to and aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda. Mullen urged the government to reform the ISI and purge the agency of extremist supporters.

The US has stepped up attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidated control in the tribal regions and settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. There have been nine recorded cross-border strikes since Aug. 31. There have been 18 recorded cross-border attacks in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.

Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the attacks. The Haqqani Network, the powerful al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group run by Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani has been heavily targeted as well.

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.

US attacks inside Pakistan in 2008:

US strikes Taliban camp in South Waziristan

Sept. 17, 2008

Report: US helicopters fired on while crossing Pakistani border

Sept. 15, 2008

US hits compound in North Waziristan,

Sept. 12, 2008

US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,

Sept. 8, 2008

US airstrike killed five al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan,

Sept. 5, 2008

Report: US airstrike kills four in North Waziristan,

Sept. 4, 2008

Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan,

Sept. 3, 2008

US hits al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan,

Aug. 31, 2008

Five killed in al Qaeda safe house strike in South Waziristan,

Aug. 31, 2008

Al Qaeda safe house targeted in South Waziristan strike,

Aug. 20, 2008

Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban’s 157 training camps in Pakistan’s northwest,

Aug. 13, 2008

Six killed in strike in South Waziristan,

July 28, 2008

Report: Strike targets Baitullah Mehsud’s hideout in Pakistan,

June 14, 2008

Senior Algerian al Qaeda operative killed in May 14 strike inside Pakistan,

May 24, 2008

Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan,

March 16, 2008

Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,

March 13, 2008

Missile strike on al Qaeda meeting in South Waziristan kills 13,

Feb. 28, 2008

Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan,

Jan. 31, 2008

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