US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan


Click to view slide show of the Haqqani Network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.

An unmanned US strike aircraft fired two missiles at the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal area of North Waziristan.

Eight people were killed in the attack and two more were wounded. The attack targeted a compound run by Ahmad Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, the patriarch of the notorious Haqqani family.

The Haqqanis run the Manba Ulom madrassa in the town of Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. The madrassa run by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The US has conducted several strikes on or near the madrassa since the fall of 2008.

Today’s strike is the first since Sept. 14. There have been four US airstrikes in Pakistan this month; all have taken place in North Waziristan.

From June 14 to Aug. 20, 11 of the 12 strikes took place in South Waziristan. One of the attacks there killed Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Of the six strikes since then, five have been in North Waziristan.

The shift to North Waziristan indicates the US is now targeting the dangerous Haqqani Network and also al Qaeda’s network, which operates in the agency. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the shift in attacks from South to North Waziristan.

The US has killed four senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in cross-border strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of August. Ilyas Kashmiri, the operations commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami and the operations chief of Brigade 313, and Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, were killed in a strike on Sept. 14. Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior military commander for al Qaeda who sat on al Qaeda’s military shura, was killed in an attack on Sept. 8. And Baitullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in a strike on Aug. 5.

The US has carried out 39 airstrikes inside Pakistan so far this year. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Fourteen al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in 2008 [see LWJ report, “US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda”].

The US is considering switching from a counterinsurgency-centric strategy aimed at defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan to a counterterrorism strategy targeting al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan using unmanned airstrikes and covert operations by special operations commandos [see LWJ report, “Counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will doom Afghanistan and Pakistan: US officials”].

Background on Danda Darpa Khel and the Haqqani Network

The Manba Ulom madrassa was established by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the renowned mujahedeen commander who has close ties with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. In the 1980s, the madrassa was used to train mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders.

The Pakistani government closed the madrassa down in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004. Since then, Taliban fighters and members of al Qaeda’s network have been known to take shelter in the madrassa compound.

The madrassa serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network, while the forward operating command center in Afghanistan is located in the village of Zambar in the northern Sabari district of Khost province, Afghanistan. The network is active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces.

The Haqqanis have extensive links with al Qaeda and with Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI. These relationships have allowed the Haqqani Network to survive and thrive in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of North Waziristan, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces.

Siraj Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, has risen in prominence over the past few years. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan and to be the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan.

Siraj is considered dangerous not only for his ties with the Afghan Taliban, but also because of his connections with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. On March 25, the US Department of State put out a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Siraj.

US attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:

US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

Sept. 24, 2009

Two al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike

Sept. 14, 2009

12 killed in second US strike in North Waziristan

Sept. 8, 2009

Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike

Sept. 7, 2009

US strikes Taliban compound in South Waziristan, 8 killed

Aug. 27, 2009

US Predators target the Haqqanis in North Waziristan

Aug. 20, 2009

US kills 14 in strike on Taliban training camp in South Waziristan

Aug. 11, 2009

Baitullah Mehsud’s wife killed in Predator attack

Aug. 5, 2009

US Predator strikes in North Waziristan, kills 5

July 17, 2009

US strikes Taliban communications center in South Waziristan

July 10, 2009

US kills 25 Taliban in second Predator strike in South Waziristan

July 8, 2009

US Predator strike on Taliban camp kills 8 in South Waziristan

July 8, 2009

US Predator strike kills 14 Taliban in South Waziristan

July 7, 2009

13 Taliban fighters killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan

July 3, 2009

Scores of Taliban killed in second US strike in South Waziristan

June 23, 2009

Six killed in US Predator attack in South Waziristan

June 23, 2009

US strikes target Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan

June 18, 2009

US kills five in South Waziristan strike

June 14, 2009

US strikes Taliban, al Qaeda in North Waziristan

May 16, 2009

US strikes again in South Waziristan

May 12, 2009

US strike targets Baitullah Mehsud territory in South Waziristan

May 9, 2009

US strike kills 10 Taliban in South Waziristan

April 29, 2009

US airstrike targets Taliban training camp in South Waziristan

April 19, 2009

US Predator kills four in South Waziristan strike

April 8, 2009

US strikes Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

April 4, 2009

US launches first strike in Arakzai tribal agency

April 1, 2009

Latest US strike targets al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan

March 26, 2009

US airstrike kills 8 in Baitullah Mehsud’s hometown

March 25, 2009

US launches second strike outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas

March 15, 2009

US missile strike in Kurram agency kills 14

March 12, 2009

US airstrike kills 8 in South Waziristan

March 1, 2009

US airstrike in Pakistan’s Kurram tribal agency kills 30

Feb. 16, 2009

US Predator strike in South Waziristan kills 25

Feb. 14, 2009

US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan

Jan. 23, 2009

US hits South Waziristan in second strike

Jan. 2, 2009

US kills 4 al Qaeda operatives in South Waziristan strike

Jan. 1, 2009

For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan.

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



  • Marlin says:

    Updates are trickling in.

    Eight people were killed and two others injured when two missiles fired by a drone hit the Markaz of Afghan commander Ahmad Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in Dandi Derpakhel area of North Waziristan on Thursday night.

    Dawn: Drone strike kills eight in N Waziristan

    “Ten dead bodies were recovered from the debris of the house and two militants were wounded in the attack,” a Pakistani security official told media on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
    “The target was a compound of Haqqani’s men. According to our reports all of the dead belong to the Haqqani network,” the official said.
    The targeted building acted as an office where militants would come to receive orders and rest between bouts of fighting across the border in Afghanistan, local residents and intelligence officials said.

    Geo TV: US drone strike claims 10 in NWA

  • TLA says:

    In a way, the drone attacks are a suitable means of punishment for 9-11 (though without a equal degree of punishment for those who were trapped in the WTC).
    Anyway, it’s something.

  • shah says:

    It is proved that such attacks have broken their back bone and more strikes required not only in waziristan but in aurakzai and lower kurram also. Now the main culprits have shifted to other areas. A german built health center for afghan refugies in 80″s at shasho area of lower kurram is the HQ of waliur rahman and lot of other. A madrassa in village satin is another focus point in the area. Wacha darra and darra dar in chamkani area have lot of uzbeks and arabs. In Aurakzai known villages llike ghaljoo, dabouri and mamuzai area are full of such fugatives. Only drones can reach these areas.

  • Marlin says:

    This seems new to me, e.g. the media reporting that authorities are making a concentrated effort to determine who was killed. Usually a brief throw-away line is given that the area is difficult to get to and controlled by insurgents.

    Pakistani investigators were on Friday trying to identify at least 10 militants killed in a US missile attack in the tribal belt, officials said.
    ‘We are collecting information about the identity of all those killed in the attack,’ a senior security official in the area told AFP.

    Dawn: Investigators to identify ‘militants’ killed in drone strike

  • Marlin says:

    The death count continues to rise.

    USA drone missile attack death roll went up to 12 in the restive North Waziristan.
    which resulted in the death of nine militants and several wounded, while three more corpses were recovered from beneath the debris, taking the death toll in the incident to 12.
    All the dead are said to be the Afghans, as the missile had targeted one Afghan citizen Ahmad’s house near Taliban Commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s residence.

    Geo TV: N. Waziristan drone attack death toll rises to 12

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/25/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • T Ruth says:

    Shah, every once in a while, a really worthwhile post comes in, amongst a lot of junk mail, including mine.
    Only i’m not so sure that ISAF has broken their back, or that drones alone can do it, as sharp as the technology is.
    Thank you!

  • jayc says:

    Bill, I took exceptional interest in the seventh paragraph of your excellent article. In previous reporting from various agencies, there was the disclaimer such as “reported killed” or “possibly” killed in news articles, such as those concerning Ilyas Kashmiri. You came straight out in this article and confirmed their deaths.


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