The US killed four terrorists during an airstrike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Unmanned US strike aircraft fired two missiles into a vehicle transporting “militants” out of the village of Tabi Ghundi Kala.
“It was a drone attack,” an unnamed Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. “Two missiles were fired into the vehicle. Four militants were killed.”
The region is under the control of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan. Bahadar shelters al Qaeda and is allied with the Haqqani Network. While he is not a member of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Taliban alliance headed by Hakeemullah Mehsud, he has allied with them in the past and is currently sheltering their leaders and fighters as the Pakistani military is operating in the Mehsud tribal regions.
The Pakistani military and government are unwilling to target Bahadar and the Haqqanis as these two are viewed as “good Taliban” since they do not directly threaten the Pakistani state and are seen as part of Pakistan’s strategic depth against India and Afghanistan.
Today’s attack is the second in 24 hours. Yesterday unmanned US aircraft, the deadly Predators or Reapers, hit a training camp in the Mir Ali region in North Waziristan, killing five.
The US has carried out three strikes this February and 11 last month. January 2010 had the highest monthly strike total since the program targeting Taliban and al Qaeda leaders and their network inside Pakistan’s tribal areas began in June 2004. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.]
Background on the recent strikes in 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 the summer of 2008, 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 unit for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.
The air campaign has had success over the past two months. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed two senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud is still unknown.
Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; and Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike. And Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf operative with a $1 million US bounty for information leading to his capture, is rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, although a Philippine military spokesman said Usman is likely still alive and in the Philippines.
In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Shadow Army; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network [see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010” for the full list].
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
Feb. 15, 2010
Feb. 14, 2010
Feb. 2, 2010
Jan. 29, 2010
Jan. 19, 2010
Jan. 17, 2010
Jan. 15, 2010
Jan. 14, 2010
Jan. 9, 2010
Jan. 8, 2010
Jan. 6, 2010
Jan. 3, 2010
Jan. 1, 2010
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.