The US has launched yet another airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Unmanned US Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles into a compound in the village of Newey Adda village in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
Six “militants,” a term used by Pakistani officials to describe al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, were reported to have been killed. Among those were said to be two “guests,” or foreign members of al Qaeda. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda commanders have been reported killed in the strike.
The US has hit targets in northwestern Pakistan at an unprecedented rate over the past two weeks. Today’s strike is the ninth since Sept. 1, setting up September to be the most active month since the US began launching strikes in Pakistan in 2004. The most active month recorded so far was January 2010, with the US launching 11 strikes in Pakistan in the aftermath of the suicide attack on a US combat outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer.
The Datta Khel region has been hit hard by the US, especially in the past several weeks. Five out of the last eight strikes have taken place in Datta Khel. The US has conducted 16 airstrikes in the Datta Khel region this year, or 25 percent of its current total of 63 airstrikes in Pakistan in 2010. Of the 161 strikes in Pakistan since 2004, 22 strikes have taken place in Datta Khel.
The Datta Khel region is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan, administers the region, but the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadi groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, or al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, is known to have a command center in Datta Khel.
Some al Qaeda top leaders have been targeted and killed in Datta Khel. A strike on Dec. 17, 2009, targeted Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Al Saudi is thought to have survived the strike, but Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army or Lashkar al Zil, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, were both killed in the attack.
But the most significant attack in Datta Khel took place on May 21 this year and resulted in the death of Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.
Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, a region that encompasses portions of Pakistan, Iran, and several Central Asian states. More importantly, Yazid was 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.
With today’s strikes, the US has carried out 63 attacks inside Pakistan this year. The US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram late last month. In 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes inside Pakistan. [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.]
All but six of this year’s 63 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the six strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, four took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.
Since July 2008, 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.]
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.