Top North Waziristan Taliban leader Bahadar rumored killed in US strike

Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate that the top Taliban commander in North Waziristan may have been among those killed in yesterday’s swarm attack by unmanned US aircraft in the lawless tribal agency.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the powerful Taliban chieftain in North Waziristan, was the target of yesterday’s airstrike in the Datta Khel region.

Bahadar is rumored to be among those killed in the strike, according to reports in The New York Times and ANI, but his death has not been confirmed. US intelligence officials are “investigating the possibility that he was killed” but could not confirm the reports.

The strike was carried out by five unmanned US aircraft, likely the Predators or their deadly older brothers, the Reapers. The aircraft launched the attack in two waves. First a volley of four missiles hit a compound in the village of Mizar Madakhel. After Taliban fighters cordoned the area and began to recover bodies, a second volley was fired. Initial reports indicated that 12 Taliban fighters were killed; the The New York Times later claimed a total of 21 killed.

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.

In early 2009, Bahadar united with former Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan leader 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 and government, repel any government incursion into the tribal areas, and continue to support Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The commanders demanded that Pakistan end military operations in the tribal areas and halt the US Predator strikes.

Both Nazir and Bahadar ended their participation in the United Mujahideen Council after Baitullah was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan in August 2009. The two Taliban leaders cut a deal with the government as the military moved into Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, but they have still sheltered Taliban leaders and fighters fleeing South Waziristan. The military has indicated it has no plans to take on either Bahadar or Nazir, or the Haqqani Network.

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

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  • Render says:

    Any bets that the targeting intel is going to suddenly dry up again?

  • Civy says:

    Love the new wave tactics. (wave, you’re about to be incinerated?) A simple and effective technique that seems to suggest itself, and works quite well when aircraft have nearly unlimited loiter time. Why not sooner?
    Our UAVs seem to be getting Bahadar and Bahadar.

  • teoc2 says:

    there is a very interesting survey of college students from the FATA published by Jamestown.

  • Khattak says:

    ” Our UAVs seem to be getting Bahadar and Bahadar”.
    Bahaders are produced in factories of ISI & its sponsers CIA. So yours UAVs are simply dumping Bahaders(your own production) after using them like toilet papers. For a common citizen of the world there is nothing to be excited about. Unfortunately this productions of Bahaders continues right under the noses of CIA. Last week the powerful Governer of NWFP & Wazirstan sponsered a Production Manager of terrorists with name of Mr. Zahid Hamid to deliver mesmorizing & hapnatizing jihadi lecture to young students in Islamia College Peshawar & Tribal areas. He is openly preaching Jihad on Pak TV. He is manipulating young minds through Pak TV & print media with his facinated talk about the values of Jihad & conquering the world by Pakistan Army. Even he is forging saying of Holy Kuran to achieve his objectives set out by Pakistan Army establishment.
    It is very sad that on one hand CIA is killing the Bahadars & on the hand it is placing orders to produce more Jihadi Bahaders in Jihadi Production factories. Just for refrence US paid US$997 million for 2008 war expenses to Pak Army for fighting its own war. Wait for expnses incured in 2009 & forth.
    And you are right CIA taking Bahaders after Bahaders, may it is norm of the sad business.

  • Eric L says:

    “So yours UAVs are simply dumping Bahaders(your own production) after using them like toilet papers.”
    It’s a stretch to say the Taliban are Americas product, as if America is responsible for their action and to take care of their well being. America supported them when the Soviets tried to occupy Afghanistan knowing _full_well_ they would never support America nor be hospitable to an American presence there.
    Now, when an “organization”, like the Taliban, shelters another “organization” that, like al Qaeda, targeted and killed American citizens America has no choice but to respond. Here’s my point: No matter what the “organization” is that shelters people who purposely target American citizens the American army will conquer it.
    So why do you tell America that they need to take pity on an organization who never were allied with America when America was allied with them?

  • Minnor says:

    Reapers are not older brothers as mentioned, but younger and stronger!
    Now only N.Waziristan left for taliban to operate, easier to target and attack using drones. I think S.Waziristan non-Mehsud areas may still be in taliban control.

  • wdames says:

    Not not only younger and stronger but faster and higher.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Point taken. I had meant ‘bigger brother’ when referring to the Reaper.

  • JRP says:

    Until the AQ Leadership is either eliminated or arrested by Pakistani authorities drone strikes are not going to reap strategic gains unless we are fortunate enough to actually hit the AQ Leadership . . . Highly unlikely that is going to ever occur.
    The Pakistani authorities, if they were really shrewd, would arrest the entire AQ Leadership and turn it over to the Americans. Immediately, whether it should or not, American public opinion would shift in favor of being far more accommodating to the Moslem World on the 2 issues it most concerns itself with: Israel and India.
    Alas . . . Since the Pakistani authorities will never get it, the U.S., through its State Department, should declare that because Pakistan has relinquished so much control over North Waziristan to others, the U.S. no longer recognizes NW as sovereign Pakistani Territory.
    We should then have Congress formally declare war on NW; raise an Army necessary to do the job; and go into NW to clear out all AQ/Taliban/whatever. Then, once “cleansed” we should turn NW back over to Pakistani control. If we don’t take care of AQ ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us. Since AQ is an existential threat to America, because of its intent to acquire and use WMDs against us, we can’t keep putting off preemptive action. Otherwise, all that will be left to us is reactive action. Of course, the millions of workers we’ll need to hire to sweep up what’s left of New York, Washington, and whatever other cities AQ targets with A-Bombs smuggled into the U.S., should get us out of this recession.

  • Hmm says:

    “We should then have Congress formally declare war on NW; raise an Army necessary to do the job; and go into NW to clear out all AQ/Taliban/whatever. Then, once “cleansed” we should turn NW back over to Pakistani control. ”
    I agree in theory that this may be a good idea but in actuality it is not. The Taliban leader ship will scurry away like roaches in the light and move into actual pakistan controlled territory. Whether the ISI arrests them there is another question.

  • JRP says:

    It is amazing what can get done if no one cares who gets the credit for the idea that accomplishes the mission. If my earlier idea is no good, fine . . . I’m open to any suggestion that would work better. However, doing something is always better than doing nothing and just waiting around until we are struck again. If you look at U.S. history, all the warning signs were there before Pearl Harbor and nothing was done. Many warning signs were there before 9/11 and nothing was done. Now we are in a situation where we know in advance that they’re coming at us again and it could be more catastrophic than PH and 9/11 combined . . . So what are we going to do about it? Nothing? During war time service in the military is not a “career choice”; it’s an obligation of citizenship. If we don’t take care of the problem over there, we’ll be cleaning it up over here! I’m open to suggestions . . . What should be done to prevent the next AQ strike on the U.S. Homeland?

  • Stu says:

    The tactic of second wave attacks on Taliban and militants who surround and protect the target is relatively new, at least as far as the public record is concerned. I think our UAV warfighters are showing cleverness here. If they continue attacking any post mortem, whether to gather dead or carry off evidence, such a tactic may instill enough fear to keep clean up crews away. It may impede the enemy’s famouse meticiulous documentation, for fear information be discovered. That could help create an environment where enmy data will have to rely on hearsay and crude records. Common sense tells you that every one of these targets is ripe with valuable intelligence. Why not benefit from that intelligence? Good job boys! And keep it up. Don’t give the enemy a moment’s rest.

  • Zeissa says:

    What a silly idea. The current situation is a direct product of Pakistan which shelters these militants far more than they persecute them, even when under great duress.
    Declare war on all of Pakistan or nothing.

  • Zeissa says:

    Also, JPR, their leadership is being hit. It sounds like u actually mean ALL of their leadership.

  • Khattak says:

    I am wondering as to are you also open to suggestion from non US citizen say from Wazirstan. I will give you few anyway.
    1. Stop arming terrorist armies & sponsering intelligence agencies like Pak Army & ISI.
    2. Keep up the good work with drones & reapers. It shall not be limited to Waziristan or the British colonial buffer zone. It shall be extended & utilized with the optimum precision in NWFP, Baluchistan, Mureedkay, Karachi & if required in GHQ(mother of all terrors).
    3. With the help of UN, change the British drawn colonial map of the region by declareing Azad Pashtunistan including FATA & Baluchistan two smaller & more manageble countries.
    This will guranetee the factories of terror are closed once & for all. It will also generate a lot of good well for US in the region. This will degrade the chances of nuclear terrorism as well.

  • JRP says:

    OK, let’s assume it is a silly idea and that the idea of declaring war on Pakistan is a good idea. How do we prosecute that war against nuclear-armed Pakistan in such a way so as to prevent Pakistan from using its nuclear arsenal against us? Remember, like any prudent nuclear-armed State, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is scattered, not situated all in one place. Their delivery system will be covert, not overt. It’s a war we would definitely “win”, but it will be a costly victory cause we are surely to be hit with at least one nuclear detonation Stateside. The goal is to eradicate AQ, not Pakistan. Nobody has it in for us except AQ. A better idea than declaring war on Pakistan, is to cut-off all financial aid to Pakistan for harboring AQ. Possibly China would step in to that void to keep Pakistan as a counterweight to China’s biggest competitor-India, but not likely as even the Chinese are wary of the expansion of radical Islamism into Western China. Yes, cut-off or threaten to cut off all financial assistance to Pakistan and see if that will get the Pakistani Government to realize that it is in Pakistan’s best interests to hand over all of the AQ leadership. Insofar as the Taliban is concerned, once AQ was handed over to us and we then withdrew from the area, the Taliban would lose all interest in going after us.

  • JRP says:

    In this Comment thread some have advocated and praised the Drone warfare the U.S. is waging in North Waziristan. Of course, drone warfare is just another version of air warfare/air supremacy. History teaches us that air supremacy cannot win the war for you; it can only prevent the other side from winning. In other words, air warfare unaccompanied by ground warfare won’t get you a win; only a draw, unless by luck one or two of our drones catches AQ’s #s 1 and 2-not likely to happen. Germany could not defeat England in WWII relying solely on air supremacy and the U.S. could not defeat either North Korea or North Vietnam in the 50s and 60s even though we enjoyed total air supremacy. If we cannot convince Pakistan to turn AQ Leadership over to us by way of diplomatic or withdrawal of foreign aid pressure, then we should declare North Waziristan as being no longer Pakistani Territory and go in there with the troops already on the ground in Iraq and flush out AQ. If AQ scatters out of NW into Pakistan proper, so what? . . . It’s still a victory. AQ won’t take over Pakistan, nor will their Taliban hosts once it becomes clear that all we’re really after is, literally, a hand full of people. My prediction . . . chop off the head and the body will die.

  • T Ruth says:

    As has been said:
    “Every country has an army. Thr Pakistan Army has a country.”
    And by jove does it have it by its proverbial what-nots. So now if you think it through and follow all this to its roots, as Khattak points out it is the Pak army/ISI combine that is the problem.
    Who are they financed by?
    So first, turn off the tap. Obviously. Let them stew for awhile until they’re cooked.
    Next turn up the heat. Let hellfire rain in Quetta and surroundings. Go into Baluchistan and take the port. America will probably be welcomed by the local populace.
    With the logistics pipeline secured quickly, go into Waziristan. Watch the dominos fall….
    Pakistan is on a path of self-destruction. We merely need to help it along. We do not need to fight a full-scale war.

  • Jayant says:

    Great Fun! Bang a compound full of terrorists and when others come to retrieve the dead and injured, bang the retrievers. Congratulations Drone team, this is fighting a terrorist like terrorist. Great Job!
    Also I am damn impressed with the kind of intel feed that has got to have developed for so many great hits!
    Didn’t think would get to see this day!
    Hope Bahadur did get had for good.
    Tactically, yes great strides are being made but strategically the US is going to fail this game. Pakistan army, ISI and its brood – AQ, the assorted taliban – afgan and pakistan, let, jaish and rest of the bunch is going to survive this all intact and be there to give a serious long time head ache to the americans and others
    Fundamentally as long as the Pakistani army and the ideology survives you can kill a hundred baitullahs and bahadars and it wouldn’t matter.
    But US is never going to understand this.
    but then that is meant to be : There are a whole swarm there who wants to hate america and americans love to fight enemies and this keeps both to continue doing what both do best.
    a perfect situation actually.

  • Render says:

    JRP –
    The US did not enjoy total air supremacy over Korea or Vietnam at any time during either war. US air power could inflict temporary air superiority over select targets/areas and for a select period of time almost at will, but the North Korean/Chinese and the North Vietnamese never stopped putting Mig’s in the air and the North Vietnamese never really stopped firing large SAM’s at everything that flew.
    Not that this takes away anything from the overall validity or correctness of your air power point, which I agree wholeheartedly with. Barring an extremely lucky hit on OBL, the Z-man, and/or Omar the UAV’s are not going to win the war by themselves, anymore then the F-15’s and F-16’s will or could.
    The US does enjoy total fixed wing air supremacy over the Talib/al-Q for the simple reasons that the Talib/al-Q doesn’t have fighter aircraft and the few planes they have managed to get their hands on they promptly crashed. It’s also exceedingly rare for the Talib/al-Q to have and use shoulder-fired MANPADS and slightly less rare for them to use any AAA larger then 14.5mm or 23mm.
    Air supremacy and air superiority are two different things.

  • JT says:

    Ever since 9-11-2001, Pakistan comes up with something significant every once in a while (initially with arrests of a couple of key people). Unfortunately, getting them to do much has been frustratingly slow. Apparently, they agree (quietly) with the drone campaigns. And recently engaged in Swat, Kurram, Orakzai, South Waz, and others after much pressure.
    I agree with much of what is said here about North Waziristan. However, why does the US insist so much on stressing the boots-on-the-ground sovereignty of Pakistan, over different US administrations?
    Is there more to it than Pakistan having its own nuclear weapons? I hope so, or Iran and North Korea really do not bode well for the future.


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