Unmanned US Predator have struck yet again in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles today at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Khaisoori in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. Four “militants were reported killed, and two more were wounded, according to Dawn.
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban operatives were reported killed in the strike.
The strike is the third in Mir Ali in four days; three of the last four strikes have hit targets in Mir Ali. On Oct. 4, Predators hit a mosque in the town, killing between five and eight German nationals belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Germans are thought to be of Turkish origin. Some reports indicated that Arabs may also have been killed in the Oct. 4 strike. On Oct. 6, five “militants” were killed in an attack on a compound in the village of Hormuz.
Today’s strike in Mir Ali takes place as the US is seeking to disrupt a plot by al Qaeda modeled after the Mumbai terror assault. Al Qaeda operatives were to carry out a terror assault that was to target several major European cities. The plot is said to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden.
The US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in the European plot. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a host of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region.
Mir Ali is a key al Qaeda hub in North Waziristan
The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Jihad Group, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Islamic Jihad Group is based out of the Mir Ali region.
Abu Kasha serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and the Taliban. His responsibilities have expanded to assisting in facilitating al Qaeda’s external operations against the West.
The Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar also have influence in the Mir Ali region, and host camps and safe houses for al Qaeda and other terror groups.
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. The 21 strikes in September is a record number, and with six strikes already in October, the US appears to be prepared to match last month’s pace. The previous high was 11 strikes in January 2010, after the Taliban and al Qaeda executed a successful suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that targeted CIA personnel who were active in gathering intelligence for the Predator campaign in Pakistan. In the bombing at COP Chapman, seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed.
The US has carried out 81 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years ago. The US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram in late August. 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 nine of this year’s 81 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the nine strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, seven took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.
The US campaign in northwestern Pakistan has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states as well as support al Qaeda’s external operations. [For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special Report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.]
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 intentions of taking action in North Waziristan.
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Bill, do you think that the recent uptick in drone attacks could be an attempt to bring the Haqqani’s to the bargaining table? And I’ve always been confused by this, do the Quetta Shura have assets in North Waziristan? Or is it mostly just the Haqqani network, AQ, Bhadar, and the alphabet soup of terror in the area.
From the reports of the people killed in this “battle” (or “campaign”) this seems to be targeted against multiple groups (IMU, HN, AQ, HM/TTP … all seem to have had people killed).
It seems to be an effort to destroy all of these groups external operations (and from the little data we have it is focused on Western passport holders and higher level ops management in the various orgs) given the current plotted attacks in Europe. There could also be an effort to destroy infrastructure too: the safe houses seem to end up destroyed after an attack.
The majority of the attacks in the past year have been in NW but the tempo here is much higher. I suspect unlike previously were some interesting targets were left (to determine connectivity and the network of safe houses) in this case they’re going after targets when they get them located. Some seem to be coming from interrogation and HUMINT.
On top of that there could also be steady ongoing strikes on HN around Miramshah and Mir Ali (e.g. the parallels with cross border ops and the strike on one commander who came back from AFG to PAK and was tracked on both sides of the border) at the same “background rate”. To know we’d really have to have Top Secret Codeword clearance at the CIA.