Map of the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts (the military said Shangla was under Taliban control in October); purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.
The US military started the New Year with an airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-control tribal agency of South Waziristan.
An unmanned Predator strike aircraft launched Hellfire missiles at a vehicle and a hideout in the town of Karikot. Four people were killed and several were injured in missile strikes, Geo News reported. Several of those wounded are in critical condition. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in the attack.
All of those killed were “foreigners,” a word used to describe al Qaeda operatives from outside of Pakistan. “It was a precision strike as there have been no civilian casualties,” a Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters. “All the dead and wounded were militants from Turkmenistan.” Turkmen terrorists are typically affiliated with the al Qaeda affiliated Islamic Jihad Group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.
The town of Karikot is located in the tribal areas commanded by Mullah Nazir, a Taliban chieftain and rival of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The last US airstrike inside of Pakistan in 2008 took place in Karikot and Shin Warsak near South Waziristan’s main town of Wana.
The US targeted Nazir and Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a strike near Wana on Nov. 7. Nazir was wounded in the attack. Yuldashev’s status is still unknown.
There were 36 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan during 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-nine of these attacks took place since Aug. 31. There were only 10 recorded strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.
The US campaign in Pakistan is aimed at disrupting al Qaeda’s ability to attack the West. US intelligence believes the next attack launched against the West will originate from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where al Qaeda operates 157 known training camps. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
The US strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas killed five senior al Qaeda leaders during 2008. All of the leaders were involved in supporting al Qaeda’s external operations directed at the West.
For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in two villages in South Waziristan.