US Predators kill 5 ‘militants’ in North Waziristan strike

US Predators struck inside Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today after a lull in attacks that lasted for more than a week.

Unmanned Predators or the more heavily armed and deadly Reapers fired four missiles at a vehicle and a compound in the village of Khysore in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.

“First the US drone fired two missiles on a militant vehicle and two of the occupants were killed, while three others escaped and hid in a shop adjacent to a house,” AFP reported. “The drone fired two more missiles on the shop and three of them were killed and three others were wounded.”

Five Taliban fighters were reported killed, but no senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed in the strike.

The Datta Khel area of North Waziristan is under the influence of Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Datta Khel serves as a command and control center for al Qaeda’s top leaders. Several of al Qaeda’s top commanders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, the chief financial official and commander in Afghanistan, and Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of al Qaeda’s military, have been killed in Predator strikes in Datta Khel in the last year. [For more information on al Qaeda’s presence in Datta Khel, see LWJ report, Latest US Predator strike kills 5 in al Qaeda hub in North Waziristan.]

This year, the US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill al Qaeda members involved in a plot to carry out Mumbai-styled terror assaults on European soil. 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 number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region.

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 Bahadar or the Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

Today’s strike is the first US attack in Pakistan this month, and the first since the Nov. 28 strike in the Mir Ali area.

The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. September’s record number of 21 strikes was followed by 16 strikes in October and 14 more in November. The previous monthly 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 106 attacks inside Pakistan this year, doubling last year’s number of strikes. In late August, the US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram. In 2008, the US carried out a total of 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.]

This year the strikes have been confined almost exclusively to North Waziristan. All but nine of this year’s 106 strikes have taken place in that tribal agency. 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.

Since Sept. 1, the US has ramped up airstrikes against the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 51 strikes Predator strikes in the tribal agency. Many of the strikes targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, which have been plotting to conduct the Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A Sept. 8 strike killed an IJU commander known as Qureshi, who specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.

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.]

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

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  • JT says:

    With over 1000 low to mid level types taken out over the last couple of years, mostly in North Wazoo, I wonder how AQ central and Pakistani Taliban are really doing with respect to morale, numbers, and planning.
    It would be nice to finally hear some news that Osama, AZ, or Mullah Omar have been captured or taken out. Absent that or any concrete news of real progress in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, speculation only grows and uncertainty distrust grows also.
    Bottom line: I believe the public craves some detailed information about what is going on.

  • JRP says:

    Concur with JT . . . Killing Cannon Fodder by the 3s, 4s, and 5s is an attrition battle we won’t win despite low morale in the ranks of those thousands still willing to mindlessly sacrifice themselves on behalf of the AQ/Taliban leadership. We have to get much tougher with Pakistan about the protection Pakistan is giving to the big chess pieces. I still maintain that cutting off the flow of money and declaring The Waziristans to no longer be part of Pakistan for so long as Pakistan continues its relinquishment of control over hostile activities there are two moves that will redound to our benefit in the long run notwithstanding the outcries and outrage from those antagonistic to the U.S.A. that will be precipitated in the short run.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    This is not a war predicated on our troops taking out X number of specific high profile targets hiding in FATA. We are buying time so that we can help the Afghans build the necessary security, political and economic institutions to protect themselves from these murderous radicals and grow in prosperity and security.
    This isn’t a war we, in the West, can win. This is a war we can help Afghans and Pakistanis who desire security, prosperity and democracy to win themselves.

  • Entville says:

    What would happen if US invaded north Waziristan and invited the Pak Army to move the US out?

  • kt says:

    @ArneFufkin like your comment.
    As far as “Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani”
    So Mr. Pakistan are you joining with ISAF or the Taliban?

  • Charu says:

    Agreed this is just cannon fodder. Now if the headlines stated US Predators take out ISI HQ in Rawalpindi, then the war is as good as won.
    The Pakistani military must be given a deadline to move into North Waziristan and clear it or else ISAF will do it for them. If they attempt to blockade or disrupt supply lines, their military industrial assets will be targeted. And if they still don’t get the message, then an expanded ISAF that includes India and Russia will move in, disarm this rogue army and devolve Pakistan into Pashtunistan, Baluchistan, Sindh, and a landlocked Punjab. Arm the Baloch and Sindhis to level the playing field and they, like Iraq’s Kurds, will fend for themselves.

  • Villiger says:

    Entville, quite.
    And what would happen if the US invaded Baluchistan, secured the Gwadar port and a supply line therefrom into Afghanistan?
    Personally i don’t think much of the Pak military. They are good at machinations, fudging things and trouble making. Not so much at real fighting.
    A conventional war is the only answer since the PakMil refuses to co-operate or is incapable. It’ll be faster, cheaper and more effective.
    Otherwise where is all this going? What are other plausible endgame scenarios? Are there any parallels in history where we can draw some lessons in how to deal with the menace of this psychotic, deluded, inept State?
    One thing is clear the voluminous Pak military needs to be liquidated as they are incapable of change. If there is a way to build a new nation, i’m all for it, but i seriously doubt it.
    A bunch of smaller, more natural nations, self assured and willing to take responsibility in the global village we live in, may be better all round.

  • JRP says:

    With all due respect ArneFufkin, I could not disagree with you more. How did 9/11 morph into a war the purpose of which is to protect Afghans and Pakistanis from the Taliban? Isn’t that the totally discredited notion of the U.S.A. playing policeman to the World? If for some reason Afghans or Pakistanis living in the West, and there are many of them, feel compelled to help their countrymen lift off the yoke of Taliban/AQ oppression, they can go to the United Nations.
    The present war, if not already “predicated on our troops taking out X number of specific high profile targets hiding in FATA” SHOULD be so predicated These high profile targets are legitimate HVTs whose deaths or capture will surely help our cause. Moreover, is there anyone out there who really thinks it unlikely that these people have a GPT strategy? By that I mean the acquisition of A-Bombs by Gift, Purchase, or Theft to be smuggled into or near the U.S.A. and detonated?
    If the purpose of our presence in South Asia has morphed into a crusade to save Afghans and Pakistanis from themselves, count me out. Who is willing to sacrifice his or her son or daughter or endless tax dollars for that mission? Not me.
    I respectfully but earnestly Dissent from your position.

  • ByStander says:

    Hypothetically, if the AQ leadership were to be eliminated, would the USA withdraw all their forces soon thereafter? After all, this was the reason given for US troops going to Afghanistan.


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