US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

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:

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

Feb. 15, 2010

US strikes training camp in North Waziristan

Feb. 14, 2010

Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan

Feb. 2, 2010

US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

Jan. 29, 2010

US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 6

Jan. 19, 2010

Latest US airstrike in Pakistan kills 20

Jan. 17, 2010

US strikes kill 11 in North Waziristan

Jan. 15, 2010

US airstrike hits Taliban camp in North Waziristan

Jan. 14, 2010

US airstrike kills 4 Taliban fighters in North Waziristan

Jan. 9, 2010

US airstrike kills 5 in North Waziristan

Jan. 8, 2010

US kills 17 in latest North Waziristan strike

Jan. 6, 2010

US airstrike kills 2 Taliban fighters in Mir Ali in Pakistan

Jan. 3, 2010

US kills 3 Taliban in second strike in North Waziristan

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.



  • uncle tony says:

    May the CIA embrace Fat Joe and his song “make it rain” as their anthem in the tribal areas…
    “Yeah I’m in this b for terror got a handful of stacks
    Better grab an umbrella, I make it rain, I make it rain.”
    I hope the CIA makes it rain more often.

  • C. Jordan says:

    Bravo! Keep up the pressure!
    Fantastic, hats off to everyone on the front lines.

  • chris says:

    hi bill
    have you seen any reports on drone usage on the battlefield in Helmond ? I would think they have some use taking out talib fleeing Marah

  • Zeissa says:

    Nah, with the air assets available and the insane RoE UAVs will likely be altogether or almost recon only.

  • kp says:

    For a large op like Marjah you’ll use drones for observation or marking targets not for attack.

    There are plenty of fixed wing assets over Afghanistan (from the B52 on down) to deliver PGMs of various sizes when needed. They’ll use the attack drones mostly in special cases outside of major ops (especially if you need to watch for a long time then have a small window for attack so getting an air resource).

    The other drone versus manned aircraft decision is for precision attacks in areas with civilians like a single Hellfire onto a vehicle or a particular building or room. A helicopter can do this too but they have other limitations: short range; noise; exposing crew to risk from AAA.

    If anything one can see the use of attack drones in Marjah.

    Finally the goal of the Marjah mission is not to kill ’em all. It’s to move them on. To deny them a town and the financial resources it generates. Unlike Fallujah we won’t want to raise the town as we can’t clear it of civilians and we want people to return afterwards to get the place “working” under Afghan control. That is COIN not the movies.

    Remember the FATA is part of the Afghan area of operations but it is constrained by not permitting manned overflights for attack missions. And the attack capable drones are a limited resource. The goals are different and so are the methods.

  • Zeissa says:

    The casualties would remain extraordinarily low even if ground and air units were allowed to eliminate targets dropping their weapons. Unless they specifically surrender and are beyond reasonable an enemy then there will be less negative externality as they flee to less well guarded areas. Lastly, they may also return, despite much greater difficulties, so keeping this in mind everyone benefits. Civilian casualties at this point could be termed below ‘trivial’.


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