The US carried out its first Predator airstrike inside Pakistan’s tribal areas in almost three weeks. Twelve “rebels” were reported killed in the airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The strike took place today in the village of Issori, just outside of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. One missile fired from either a Predator or the more more deadly Reaper struck a compound thought to be sheltering Taliban or al Qaeda operatives.
“One missile fired from a US drone struck a militant compound in the village killing at least twelve rebels,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. Another Pakistani official said the casualties from the attack could rise. No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied terror group operatives have been reported killed in the strike at this time.
The village of Issori is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. The Haqqanis are closely allied to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar. Siraj Haqqani is the leader of the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Taliban’s top four commands. Siraj sits on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and is also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis. The Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, and operate primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika.
Another top leader of the Haqqani Network is Nasiruddin Haqqani, a brother of Siriaj. In July, the US Treasury added Nasiruddin to the list of specially designated global terrorists. Nasiruddin has traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
The US has been targeting the Haqqani Network in Pakistan as part of its Predator air campaign. The US killed Mohammed Haqqani, another of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in the Feb. 18 airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside Miramshah. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network. Siraj Haqqani and his military commander, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, have been the targets of several strikes over the past year.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir. The Haqqanis, Bahadar, and Nazir are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. The US military has been lobbying Pakistan to take on the Haqqani Network, but has recently eased the pressure after recognizing that the Pakistani government has no interest in tackling the al Qaeda-linked group.
Background on US strikes in Pakistan
Today’s strike is the first reported inside Pakistan in August, and the first since July 25. The pause in strikes is the longest since the attacks were ramped up in July 2008. Over the past year, the US has averaged between six to eight strikes a month. Last month, the US carried out just four attacks inside Pakistan.
So far this year, the US has carried out 50 strikes in Pakistan; all but five have taken place in North Waziristan. The other five 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.]
Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in the tribal areas 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.]
The US scored its biggest success in the air campaign in Pakistan in May of this year. 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.
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