The US launched another Predator airstrike against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.
Today’s strike took place in the village of Bahadur Kaley in the Garyaum region in North Waziristan, about 20 miles south of the main town of Miramshah.
Five Taliban fighters were reported killed and several more were wounded, according to reports from the region. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda fighters have been reported killed.
The Predator strike took place in a tribal area controlled by North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
Bahadar is the senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan and one of the most prominent commanders in Pakistan. He is a direct descendant of Mirza Ali Khan, the tribal leader who fought the British and the Indians in the early 20th century. Bahadar chairs the North Waziristan Shura, or executive council. His forces defeated the Pakistani Army in 2006 and 2007; nonetheless, Bahadar is considered by the Pakistani establishment a “pro-government Taliban” leader.
Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadi groups shelter in Bahadar’s tribal areas, and run training camps and safe houses in the region.
Earlier this year, Bahadar united with Baitullah Mehsud and South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir to form the United Mujahideen Council. The group was formed at the behest of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and the Haqqanis. The three leaders of the newly formed Council vowed to oppose the Pakistani military government, repel any government incursion into the tribal areas, and continue to support Taliban operations in Afghanistan.
Both Nazir and Bahadar discarded their peace agreements with the government after the military began an air offensive against Baitullah in South Waziristan. The commanders demand that Pakistan end military operations in the tribal areas and halt the US Predator strikes.
First strike in North Waziristan in two months
Today’s attack in North Waziristan is the first since the May 16 strike against a madrassa and a vehicle in the town of Khaisor, which is just outside the town of Mir Ali. Twenty-five Taliban and al Qaeda operatives were reported to have been killed and several more were wounded.
Since May, the Predator campaign has focused exclusively on South Waziristan. The last nine Predator strikes were in this region. Of the 31 US strikes carried out in Pakistan this year, 22 of them took place in South Waziristan.
Baitullah Mehsud’s territory has been hit 14 times and Mullah Nazir’s areas have been hit eight times. Both Nazir and Baitullah host al Qaeda training camps and shelter senior leaders of the terror group. Seven of the last nine attacks have targeted Baitullah’s camps and safe houses.
The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s total of 36 airstrikes in Pakistan.
Background on US strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban networks in northwestern Pakistan
US intelligence believes that al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda’s external network and decapitate the leadership. The US also has targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.
As of last summer, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban’s military arm; some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan; some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups; some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.
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 those attacks took place after Aug. 31. There were only 10 recorded strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined.
During 2008, the US strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas killed five senior al Qaeda leaders. All five were involved in supporting al Qaeda’s external operations directed at the West.
Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan in January 2008.
Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda’s external operations chief, was killed in a strike in Bajaur in March 2008.
Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction chief, and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan in July 2008.
Khalid Habib, the leader of al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, was killed in a region controlled by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan in October 2008.
Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and a member of al Qaeda’s top council, was killed in North Waziristan in October 2008.
In 2009, US strikes have killed two senior, long-time al Qaeda leaders. Osama al Kini and his senior aide, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, were killed in a New Year’s Day strike in South Waziristan. Kini was al Qaeda operations chief in Pakistan. Both men were behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.
US attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:
July 17, 2009
July 10, 2009
July 8, 2009
July 8, 2009
July 7, 2009
July 3, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 18, 2009
June 14, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 12, 2009
May 9, 2009
April 29, 2009
April 19, 2009
April 8, 2009
April 4, 2009
April 1, 2009
March 26, 2009
March 25, 2009
March 15, 2009
March 12, 2009
March 1, 2009
Feb. 16, 2009
Feb. 14, 2009
Jan. 23, 2009
Jan. 2, 2009
Jan. 1, 2009
For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan.