Arakzai strike targeted senior Taliban, al Qaeda commanders


Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud at a press conference in Peshawar. He is behind the attacks on NATO convoys in Khyber and Peshawar.

Yesterday’s airstrike in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Arakzai targeted a meeting being held by senior lieutenants of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in the Arakzai, Khyber, and Kurram tribal agencies, was one of several senior Taliban leaders targeted in the latest US Predator airstrike. Hakeemullah was not killed in the strike, The News reported.

In a phone call to The News, Hakeemullah admitted the strike hit one of his training camps. He then threatened to conduct suicide attacks in Islamabad to avenge the attack as the Pakistani government has been cooperating with the US to carry out the strikes.

The meeting was to be held at the home of a local Taliban leader named Maulvi Gul Nazeer. Twelve people were reported killed in the attack; among the dead were four Arab al Qaeda operatives, including a leader named Qaqa (or Kaka). Qaqa was the deputy of a senior al Qaeda leader operating in the region, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

Nazeer survived the strike, but his wife, his daughter-in-law, two of his sons, and a nephew were reportedly among these killed. Three Taliban fighters were reported killed and six others were wounded. The wounded were shifted to Mamozai “where they had a camp with all kind of facilities, including a dispensary.”

The nature of the meeting has not been disclosed, but Hakeemullah is known to be behind the attacks on NATO supply columns moving through Peshawar and Khyber destined for Afghanistan. His forces have been involved in raids that have led to the destruction of more than 500 NATO vehicles and shipping containers. The raids also have destroyed two vital bridges. Pakistan has closed the Khyber Pass to NATO traffic six times since September because of the attacks. These attacks have forced NATO to search for alternative supply routes into Pakistan.

Yesterday’s strike in Arakzai was the first in the tribal area since the US began targeting Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2004.

Taliban, al Qaeda “quite safe” in Arakzai

Arakzai has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaeda activity over the past two years. Fighting between the Taliban and the military in Darra Adam Khel and in neighboring Kohat has increased the Taliban’s power. Scores of Pakistani paramilitary troops and police were killed or captured during battles in Darra Adam Khel and at the strategic Kohat Tunnel. The Taliban took control of the tunnel for weeks at a time in the spring and late summer of 2008.

The Pakistani military and government pressured the tribal leaders in Arakzai to oppose the Taliban. The Taliban smashed this effort on Oct. 10, 2008, when a suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a tribal meeting of Ali Zai tribal leaders in Arakzai. After the attack on the meeting, which killed more than 150 tribal leaders and members, the Arakzai tribes refused to take on the Taliban.

A similar attack in March 2008 during a tribal meeting in Kohat killed 40 tribal members, including several senior tribal leaders, and wounded more than 40. Any organized resistance to the Taliban in Kohat soon faltered.

The Taliban consolidated control of Arakzai in December of 2008, when Hakeemullah imposed sharia, or Islamic law, throughout the tribal agency. Since then, tribal leaders have said that the Taliban and al Qaeda were “feeling quite safe in Arakzai Agency, which is a strategic place for them as they could easily arrive there from Kurram, North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions as well as the gun-manufacturing Darra Adam Khel area in the FR [Frontier Region] Kohat,” The News reported on April 2.

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



  • Mr T says:

    “After the attack on the meeting, which killed more than 150 tribal leaders and members, the Arakzai tribes refused to take on the Taliban.”
    But when we drop a bomb that kills a couple of civilians, they swear to retaliate and anger ensues all over Pakistan. This is truly bizarro world like Jerry Seinfeld said. Up is down and down is up.
    How about you just tell us where they are and we will blow up 150 of them. A few of those calls and you won’t have that problem anymore.
    They don’t want outsiders interfering but those Arab bombers can interfere and they roll over. I guess they don’t teach logic in schools there.

  • JusCruzn says:


  • Neo says:

    The Taliban never was separate from the Terrorist organizations. They are interrelated organizations and have been from the beginning. Almost all of the terrorist organizations have direct ties back to the Pakistani ISI. Their founding could best be characterized as a collaborative effort between local militants, Arab militants, Gulf money, the Pakistani ISI, former civilian Pakistani governments, Epyptian radicals, and Wahabbi madrasas. It was patterned after the Mujahadeen resistance to the Soviets and some of it has ties back to that era and earlier.

  • Iubire says:

    Excelent move from our troops. Hope this will stop the talibans.

  • Minnor says:

    Great work Troops! Can’t help non-combatant death when high value commander targeted will kill much more no. of civilians in future.
    Good lead about Mamozai hospital close to Peshawar. Pak should detain the injured there.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    It reminds me of the scene from “unforgiven”, CLint Eastwood. Were he shoots the bar owner, who was unarmed. Then Little Bill says he’s a coward for shooting an unarmed man. Bill Money, responds: “he should of armed himself”. Needless to say, if collateral casualties or direct family members of high-value targets are the price of a successful strike, so be it.

  • John says:

    Reapers are great, but BUFs would be better. Great job guys – kill like you mean it!

  • m3fd2002 says:

    One major misconception is that the Mujahadeen liberated Afghanistan from the Soviet Union. The facts are that the Soviets, under Gorbachav left Eastern Europe and most of the satellite asian countries as the Soviet Union collapse after the cold war. Soviet casualties in Afghanistan were minimal, about 10,000(hostile, accidents, sickness, etc) dead over 9 years.


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