The US killed seven terrorists in an airstrike today on a known al Qaeda compound in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. The Predator strike is the seventh this month.
An unmanned Predator or the more deadly Reaper fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Karikot near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. The compound is known to be used by al Qaeda operatives in the area.
An al Qaeda operative from Egypt known as Hawza al Jawfi, two Punjabi fighters, and five local Taliban fighters are said to have been killed in the strike, The New York Times reported.
Jawfi is said to have led Jundallah, a Pakistani terror group that is based in Karachi and maintains with close ties with al Qaeda. Dr. Arshad Waheed, an al Qaeda commander who was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan in March 2008, had close links to Ata-ur-Rehman, the former leader of Jundallah who was detained by Pakistani security forces.
Wana is under the control of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Taliban in the Waziri tribal areas in South Waziristan. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers “good Taliban” as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. However, Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan; more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir’s tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan.
In the summer of 2009, just prior to launching a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the military agreed to a peace deal with Nazir as well as with North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nazir and Bahadar are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Bahadar and the Haqqani Network, which is also based in North Waziristan, are also considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani government and military.
The peace agreement allows for the Pakistani military to move through Nazir and Bahadar’s tribal areas without being attacked. Another condition of the agreement prohibits Bahadar and Nazir from providing shelter to fleeing members of the Mehsud branch of the Taliban.
But Taliban fighters from the Mehsud tribal areas have sought shelter with Mullah Nazir in the Wazir tribal areas, and the rearguard fighters still opposing the Army’s advance are receiving support from Nazir’s forces, US military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal, despite a promise to eject the Mehsud Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
Background on US strikes in Pakistan
Today’s strike is the seventh reported inside Pakistan this month. Three of the six prior strikes took place over the course of 24 hours on June 10-11.
So far this year, the US has carried out 45 strikes in Pakistan; all but three, including the strike today, have taken place in North Waziristan. The other two strikes took place in South Waziristan and the tribal agency of Khyber.
The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s strike total in Pakistan. In 2009, the US carried out 53 strikes in Pakistan; and in 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes in the country. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special Report, “Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Three al Qaeda military commanders and a Taliban commander were killed in airstrikes this month. The first strike, on June 10, killed two low-level Arab al Qaeda military commanders and a Turkish foreign fighter. A US attack on June 19 in Mir Ali killed an al Qaeda commander named Abu Ahmed, 11 members of the Islamic Jihad Group, and four Taliban fighters. On June 27, a Taliban commander known as Hamza Mehsud was killed.
Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan, and have also struck at targets in South Waziristan and Khyber, in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. [For more information, see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
In early April, a top terrorist leader claimed that the US program had been crippled. Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, said that the effectiveness of US airstrikes in killing senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders had “decreased 90 percent” since the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer. While other factors may be involved in the decreased effectiveness in killing the top-tier leaders, an analysis of the data shows that only three top-tier commanders have been killed since Jan 1, 2010, but seven top-tier leaders were killed between Aug. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009. [See LWJ report, “Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan ‘decreased 90 percent’ since suicide strike on CIA – Siraj Haqqani,“ for more information.]
But the US scored its biggest success in the air campaign in Pakistan last month. On May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda’s top leaders, and the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date.
Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, and more importantly, as al Qaeda’s top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group’s purse strings. He served on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistani and US officials believed that one of the top Taliban leaders in Pakistan was killed in a strike this year. Up until May 2, most US and Pakistani officials believed that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, had been killed in a Jan. 14 strike in Pasalkot in North Waziristan. The CIA had been furiously hunting Hakeemullah after he appeared on a videotape with the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on Combat Outpost Chapman.
But after four months of silence on the subject, the Taliban released two tapes to prove that Hakeemullah is alive. On both of the tapes, Hakeemullah said the Taliban will carry out attacks inside the US. The tapes were released within 24 hours of an attempted car bombing in New York City by Faisal Shahzad, who was trained by the Taliban in North Waziristan. Hakeemullah’s tapes were released along with another by his deputy, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing in New York City.
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
June 29, 2010
June 27, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 11, 2010
June 10, 2010
May 28, 2010
May 21, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 11, 2010
May 9, 2010
May 3, 2010
April 26, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 16, 2010
April 14, 2010
April 12, 2010
March 30, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 23, 2010
March 21, 2010
March 17, 2010
March 16, 2010
March 10, 2010
March 8, 2010
Feb. 24, 2010
Feb. 18, 2010
Feb. 17, 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.