Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan ‘decreased 90 percent’ since suicide strike on CIA – Siraj Haqqani

The leader of the Haqqani Network claimed that the US air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda has been seriously impacted after a suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan at the close of 2009.

Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan, claimed that “the accurate drone-strike operations against the mujahideen decreased 90 percent” during an interview with Abu Dujanah al Sanaani for the newly established Al Balagh Media Center. A translation of Siraj’s interview was provided by Flashpoint Partners.

Siraj described the Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent who killed seven CIA personnel and his Jordanian intelligence handler at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan’s Khost province on Dec. 30 as a “big hero.” The suicide bomber lured CIA officials to a meeting by claiming to have information that would lead to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command.

“[S]ome of the most senior officials in the American intelligence, the CIA – the best among the intelligence groups – were killed” in the suicide attack, Siraj said. “And those killed in the American intelligence are the group responsible for chasing after the mujahideen in the region, and in particular the mujahideen leaders, and they worked for year in this field to the extent that they had influence in some of the neighboring countries, including Iraq, and after the demise of this group the backbone of the enemy broke and the accurate drone-strike operations against the mujahideen decreased 90 percent…”

Siraj said the CIA “created error in using spies,” meaning that its attempt to turn Jordanian jihadi Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, who is also known as Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, into a double agent to be used to attack al Qaeda, had failed. Khurasani was detained by Jordanian intelligence for running an online jihadi forum, and sent to Afghanistan to penetrate the inner circles of al Qaeda’s leadership. But instead al Qaeda used Khurasani to strike back at the CIA.

Siraj also said that the suicide attack not only killed senior, experienced CIA officials, but the event created a “loss of trust in spies as their efficiency shortened due to security problems in the region.”

While Siraj’s claims may be dismissed as Taliban propaganda, at look at the high value targets killed in the months before and after the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman lend some weight to his words. A comparison of the high value targets killed between August and December 2009 and those killed between January and mid-April 2010 shows a marked decrease in the killing of leaders and operatives of the highest importance.

From Aug. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2009, the US carried out 22 airstrikes inside Pakistan. During this time period, eight high value targets were killed. Of those eight high value targets killed, seven were top-tier al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied movement leaders. Those leaders are: Baitullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan; Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network; Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior Shadow Army military commander who sat on al Qaeda’s military shura; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior Shadow Army military commander; Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

From Jan. 1, 2010 to April 15, 2010, the US has carried out 28 airstrikes in Pakistan. This is six more strikes over a period that is six week shorter. Eight high value targets were killed during this time period. Yet only two of the high value targets killed can be considered top-tier leaders: Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, a senior operative in al Qaeda’s external operations network who was involved in the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman; and Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam wanted by the US for attacking the US Consulate in Karachi in 2006.

Granted, the air campaign in Pakistan is not only aimed at killing top al Qaeda, Taliban, and allied movement leaders. The strikes also focus on hitting al Qaeda external operations network and groups based in Pakistan that are conducting attacks inside Afghanistan. These targets are also important but receive far less attention than the top terrorist leaders.

It cannot be said with certainty that the suicide attack on the CIA base at the end of the year has caused a significant decrease in the quality of high value targets killed in the Predator and Reaper strikes. Other factors may contribute to this drop-off: a switch from targeting high value targets to the support networks, al Qaeda and Taliban purges of suspected spies, a decrease in quality of intelligence from the region, and better enemy operational security. But the data does support the contention that there has been a significant decrease in top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders killed since the beginning of 2010.

For more information, see:

Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010

Transcript of interview with Jordanian suicide bomber Khurasani

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

Tags: , ,


  • Pashtun says:

    Haqanis, AQ & its freinds ISI are not easily going away. They are there for a long long time in their safe hideouts of Pak Tribal areas. Unless otherwise they are denied their safe sancturies, there is nothing much US can do about terrorism. Drones are not enough.
    US needs to come up with new thinkings. They shall think of isolating Pakistan Tribal Areas & Afghanistan Border areas to deny the Terrorists & its sponsers the buffer zone used for terrorist operations. A Ministry of Borders & Tribals adminstering both sides of Durand line under the US/UN mandated force will be the best answer to all terrorists & its sponsers. Ordinary people of Tribal areas will support the idea because they have enough of draconian British FCR laws of collective punshiment of tribes by Pakistan armed forces. The tribal knows that they are being used by Pak establishment as strategic depth to colonize Afganistan & grabing maximum money & weapons from US. Tribals are being killed by Haqanis, AQ, Pak Army & US. So the alternative of directly adminstered by UN/US is better than to be slaves of the slaves.

  • Civy says:

    It is almost certain that the BDA to determine who exactly was killed has also been degraded, so a more precise statement might be “The Provable Effectiveness of US Strikes” has decreased.
    As was well covered here at the LWJ, the DOD had developed a good capability separate and apart from the CIA, largely reported to be a reaction to the poor work product of the CIA.
    It seems reasonable to assume that during some transition phase, before existing intelligence became stale, a decision was taken to “burn it all down”. This less selective may even have had an unanticipated benefit – it goaded the Pak military into taking more forceful action as, by comparison, it was losing credibility amongst its own citizenry.
    Of interest now is to what extent the DOD’s intelligence capabilities can succeed in generating actionable and reliable intel, the results of which can be verified. It is also likely, as has been reported, that Xe/Blackwater is playing an increased role on both of these counts during the transition phase, involving heavy recruitment of Pak citizens.
    Perhaps, at the end of the day, the CIA will revive it’s skill in trade-craft, go back to more traditional roles, and let the DOD handle the dirty, wet, muscle end of the biz. This would seem to make a lot more sense in the long run. Trying to be a military branch in the GWOT has not served the US or the CIA well.

  • BraddS says:

    This 90% figure is from someone who can’t do third grade math.

  • T Ruth says:

    Bill, thank you for an excellent report. Intuitively, i too felt that there may have been some effect on the overall quality of the end-result, even though the quantity of strikes was up. The volume i suspect was an understandable expression of wrath, combined perhaps with a rapid execution of the intel pipeline at that time.
    Thanks again for delving in and your incisiveness. This is the value-add that has one hooked to the LWJ.
    As for Haqqani, he obviously gives a toss for the fact that he lost his own brother to a drone. Lets hope the US is redoubling its efforts, while we speak, in order to neutralise him and the other low-life forms like zawahiri that comprise this black spot of humanity. I reckon there must be a tipping point where you break the back of thieir command and control structure.

  • JRP says:

    I have said the following two things before . . . ONE: The Dec. 30, 2009 destruction of the CIA Team at FOB Chapman was a significant victory for AQ and Taliban. TWO: You cannot defeat your enemy by air warfare alone-history has proven that time and time again to the point where example-giving is unnecessary.
    To defeat your enemy you have to muster the political will to survive. You do that by a formal Congressional Declaration of War against AQ and the Taliban followed by a universal draft to raise an Army of 3 Million men. You then invade the Pakistani tribal areas where we know or reasonably believe the leadership of our enemies is hiding and root them out inch by inch, if necessary.
    I’m sick and tired of having the U.S. Constitution treated as if it were a suicide pact or an instrument of surrender. Moreover, after the usual bluster from all the expected international and national quarters to include the ACLU Quislings, the World will do nothing and permit us to 100% accomplish what we need to accomplish, if we are to 100% prevent a nuclear strike on our homeland via stolen/purchased A-bombs smuggled ashore and detonated or brought close off-shore and detonated. That’s the bottomline. If we don’t have the survival willpower to defend our Country, then move over for China, the next in line.

  • Tyler says:

    I guess Siraj just meant that only 90% of his butthead terrorist brother was found, scraped up, and buried.
    The kills clearly happen in fits. Bill’s data shows about a three month gap between the spate of kills in August/September 2009 (Baitullah, Yuldashev, Jaziri, Jalolov) and December 2009 (Al-Libi, Al-Somali, Hajji Omar Khan.)
    Comparatively, HVT kills in 2010 have been a bit more steady. The five weeks since Ghazwan al Yemeni and al Aazimi (the reputed Iraq insurgency veteran) is the longest drought sofar.
    And whether or not Hakeemullah Mehsud is still holding on to the mortal coil its clear the drone strikes have at least had the effect of shutting him up.

  • James says:

    What is hard for me to understand is the over-reliance of CIA on double agents and/or human intel. It at least seems to me that CIA has a bad habit of putting too many eggs in one basket.
    Although they do need to be on the “front lines” and need to be where the action is (i.e., where the terrorists are).
    Why not as a fallback strategy use more of our technological superiority? For example, maximize the use of surreptiously placed GPS tracking devices.
    Look up the case of serial arsonist John Leonard Orr in Wikipedia to get an idea of what I’m suggesting here.

  • T Ruth says:

    I quite like your idea about placing the tribal belt under a UN mandated control. Not so sure about the formation of a Ministry but certainly some form of governance structure.
    It would be a good first step to legitimising the de facto lack of Pakistani sovereignity in this area on to an eventual separation from the Pak State and its medievial army. Far better to play dominos here and break out of the stalemated chess game as of now.
    Game change is what is sorely needed in this aging conflict. Lets see if Obama’s yes-we-can spirit can reach into this Long War or if its going to be business as usual. The recent mtg about the nuclear threat was a good sign, but for now, thats all it is, a sign.

  • Zeissa says:

    Also I’m a bit disappointed this article doesn’t mention the very high-value killing that may have been hushed up. There’s two others too I think who were high-value but one proved himself to be alive and I’m not sure about the other, but it’s not a big deal not to mention them.
    I mean I’m 95% sure Hakemullah is dead. Even if it’s 55% it deserves a mention imho.

  • Civy says:

    Like Ruth, I also believe the tribal areas need to be removed from the Pak sphere of influence. My idea was to just lease the area from Pakistan – a’la Hong Kong – for the money we will give them anyway, so we have free rein over it. This would open the door for UN involvement, but lets face it, the UN is a little short of muscle for such an undertaking, at least in the initial Clear & Hold phases.
    The other change I would like to see is some narrow strip of territory running from the Baluchistan border of Afghanistan and Iran down to the port of Gwdar made available, at least semi-permanently, to Afghanistan so it is no longer land-locked.
    For our logistics, but also farmers in the Helmand valley, this would allow for economically viable exports of high value crops like fruits and vegetables to other middle-eastern countries and the world, and ween them off of opium as a cash crop. It would also allow Afghanistan to make substantial incomes from the transit of Caspian Sea oil and Iranian and Baluchi NG to energy hungry India and China.
    Also insightful that Pak is attempting the colonization of Afghanistan. I had not thought of it this way, but that is clearly an intent. With US, UN, or both invested in the security of the tribal areas, Pak citizens could sleep easy about India and perhaps see Indian paranoia on the part of the Pak military for what it is, a perpetual source of funds and political support, and a wholly mfg paranoid fantasy.
    I do wish we were lecturing Pakistan on making military adventure and paranoia its primary industry from a slightly higher moral ground. Every last fear of Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial” threat speech has been realized, and to a degree that makes his speech seem quaint.
    Three times as many people were killed in Mexican Drug Wars as Afghanistan last year, over 400 people were kidnapped in the city of Phoenix alone, and yet we are paranoid about AQ and the Taliban on the other side of the world. Not a good example of clear-minded thinking, good public policy, nor allocation of resources.

  • Erik says:

    Tyler – There may be a link in the gaps to the sporadic reporting we see of alleged spies getting their heads cut off in the tribal areas. Just a thought.
    James – In that area, even discrete TTL ops require local assets. It is impossible to run long-term ops without them. And believe me, if those guys could be doing their work from anywhere else they would. It’s just the nature of the fight they are in. The target and it’s network should determine where you work, not the other way around.

  • James says:

    Erik, thanks for your response.
    My heart goes out to the families of those CIA ops killed.
    However, they must not have been all that great. I mean, at least one or more of them was dumb enough to let this guy in unchecked.
    We are not going to win this thing on drones alone. Sooner or later, you may well reach the point of “diminishing returns.”
    Honestly, I think that maybe the ideal candidates to replace those CIA ops (and maybe eventually the entire CIA as a whole) would be combat/military veterans (or even active duty ones) that have served in those areas and obviously know the turf and customs well through hard learned experience.
    You are correct, no matter what, the show must go on.
    They will always need human intel. But, more of a mix might be in order; for example, involving tracking technologies with an emphasis on GPS.

  • T Ruth says:

    Your post contains several good ideas…
    The striking thing is that it is a contrast to what one reads generally about ideas and initiatives trickling out of the Administration. Washington seems almost to be in paralysis over creative ways to sort out this mess. Talks were abouth the only thing one has heard of in months–that too seriously misconceived and premature. Then the Pakistanis put a spanner in the works, and in the end both the UN and Karzai came out looking stupid.
    My fear is that positive ideas don’t seem to come to fruition and its totally against the grain, culture and reality of the Pak govt.
    So if its not by hook, then by crook, even though the real crook here is Pak. No matter how much one gives them they hold out for more with zero shame. Ultimately a break up of Pakisatn will give the Pashtuns and the Baluchis their freedom, bring the NW under control, the Afghans an end to their meddlesome neighbor, negotiated access to the sea, Inida an opportunity to get on with building their economy and an end to the global epicentre of terrorism. Even a free Kashmir is conceivable in the long run.
    I know this is not a political site but i wonder what Americans think about the team tackling these issues, ie Holbrooke, Clinton, Gates…the Generals and wheter they’re up to it?

  • Eli says:

    Another great article that has caused interest in some my co-workers. So much so we had to get the full translated piece.
    As for your research on the number of strikes, from last year and so far this year, there seems to be a discrepancy as to how many. You listed 38 strikes this year, vice 22 last year. Yet you say there are only six more over a period that is six weeks shorter. I would just like clarification if the strikes were actually increased by 16 or by 6.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Eli, that was a typo, it should have read ’28’ and not ’38’. I have corrected this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
    There was another one yesterday so technically the number is 29….

  • Gerald Anthro says:

    This points to the accurate info Jordanian jihadi Abu Dujanah al Khurasani had been providing before the Taliban determined he was a double agent, and spent 3 months turning him into a suicide bomber.

  • T Ruth says:

    Gerald, i doubt it!
    Not the impression if you read this fairly well written and detailed article
    From GQ of all places–Bill provides a link too–he really digs around to ferret out the interesting stuff…
    On the contrary i think one big question mark hanging over the CIA’s head is what actionable intel did he in fact provide–personally haven’t heard of any!

  • Render says:

    In reference to the number of reported kidnappings in Phoenix, Arizona.
    The FBI and NCIC do publish reasonably accurate crime reports on-line. ABC News does not publish reasonably accurate reporting on-line or anywhere else.

  • Civy says:

    One of the subtle points made by Machiavelli in “The Prince” is order has come come first, before government’s can persist. Once there is order, time is on the side with the most to offer. I have spent the last 7 yrs shaking my head that this was “news” where Iraq was concerned.
    I don’t know what you’ve read, but the more you know about the region, the more obvious it is that the aspirations you’ve identified are possible, but only if Pakistan takes a radically different posture on many, many fronts. It also seems just, especially where the Balucis are concerned, that failed states rule fewer, not more people/territory/resources.
    One way to jump-start the process is to have Afghanistan negotiate directly with Baluchistan. If they find common ground in creating a new combined state it would solve many problems.
    So what would drive this process forward? Trillions in petro-chemical dollars ready willing and able to build those pipelines. (remember when the Chinese tried to buy Union 76?) In particular, the Chinese invested 3 billion in the port facilities in Gwadar because NOBODY wants to get caught in the Straits of Hormuz – not the US Navy, not the Chinese, Indian nor any EU tanker fleet.
    The hydroelectric potential of Afghanistan alone is Swiss-like. Looked at for investment potential, the place is just screaming “invest here” and the Taliban are just in the way, selling nothing but doom, despair, and nihilism, kicking and screaming they want to go back and live in the 8th century.
    I think the West is really blowing the opportunity to provide a more compelling vision to the people of this region – a vision that is much more attractive than anything the Taliban are selling.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram