US Predators kill 25 ‘rebels’ in pair of strikes in North Waziristan

Map of the Miramshah-Mir Ali area in North Waziristan. Click to view larger map.

The US launched two airstrikes today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strikes are the first in 10 days, and the first in the Mir Ali area in a month.

In the first strike, unmanned Predators or the more heavily armed and deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a compound and four more missiles at two vehicles in the village of Sher Tala in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, according to Geo News. One of the vehicles is said to have been laden with explosives and ammunition, “magnifying the blasts from the missile attacks,” Al Jazeera reported. Pakistani intelligence officials said that 21 “rebels” were killed. Pakistani officials often refer to al Qaeda or allied Central Asian terrorists as rebels.

The second strike occurred hours later in the village of Machikhel in the Mir Ali area. Four more Taliban fighters were killed in an attack on a vehicle.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed in either of the strikes.

The Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils. In addition to al Qaeda, Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area.

In 2010, 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 number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region.

Since Sept. 8, a total of 16 Germans and two Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the Mir Ali area. The IJU members are believed to be involved in a recently discovered al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modeled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

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 strikes are the first since the US launched three attacks in the Tirah Valley in the tribal agency of Khyber on Dec. 17. In those attacks, 54 Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam fighters were killed.

The US has carried out nine airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies since the beginning of December.

The pace of the strikes from the beginning of September up to the end of November was 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. The suicide bombing at COP Chapman killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer.

The US has carried out 114 attacks inside Pakistan in 2010, more than doubling the number of strikes in 2009. In late August 2010, the US exceeded 2009’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.]

In 2010 the strikes have been confined almost exclusively to North Waziristan, where the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and a host of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups are based. All but 13 of this year’s 114 strikes have taken place North Waziristan. Of the 13 strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, seven took place in South Waziristan, five occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.

Since Sept. 1, 2010, the US has conducted 60 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks took place against the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 54 strikes in the tribal agency. Many of the strikes targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, which have been plotting to conduct 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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  • jayc says:

    I should be slapped repeatedly for referencing any Associated Press releases; however this bit of info is indeed interesting:
    US missiles hit Pakistan borderlands, killing 18,
    AP, 27 Dec 10
    “…The vehicles were apparently leaving a compound, and one was carrying a large load of ammunition, magnifying the blasts from the missile strikes.”

  • jayc says:

    And a little blurb from the wikileaks handling boys at the Times. Look who they quoted!
    Taliban Fighters Appear Blunted in Afghanistan.
    New York Times, 26 Dec 10
    “Inside Pakistan itself, 99 of the 112 airstrikes launched by C.I.A. drones this year have been directed at North Waziristan, the operations hub for the Haqqanis as well as one of their Waziri allies, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, according to Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a Web site that monitors the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

  • Max Brando says:

    This is an excellent site! I navigate to it everday to get the latest info on our “undeclared” war in Pakistan. This site usually has seemeingly accurate information about events even before they have been reported, in detail, by mainstream media. Hats off to the staff at LongWarJournal!
    (P.S. I am almost giddy at the fact that we can take out these monstrous criminals with minimal exposure to our troops)

  • indus says:

    So close!
    The article in its 1st para says ” One of the vehicles is said to have been laden with …”
    If only it said instead” One of the vehicles is said to have bin laden with …”
    All we can do is keep trying. May be next time.

  • Ranger says:

    “One of these days…
    to the moon…”

  • Stevied says:

    This is a great website and thank you Bill for providing information about the war in Afganistan/Pakistan. My son son is currently deployed in Afghanistan and I believe what he and and our troops are doing in that part of the world. Also, with your stat’s about the drone war in tribal regions in Pakistan it makes me aware that the Obama Admin is on the right path taking the fight to the enemy. This gives me one area to agree with is this admin.

  • JohnB says:

    I second the comment that this is a great website. The British media here rarely give a balanced view of the Afghan war in particular. ISAF communiques giving enemy losses are rarely if ever quoted, for example, so that the average person knows only about the British casualties. So for the balanced viewpoint I come here.
    Its only recently that there is beginning to be a grudging acceptance apparent that maybe the war is beginning to turn around in our favour.

  • jayc says:

    The U.S. military now eschews enemy “body counts,” a practice widely used during the Vietnam conflict. It tended to give a slanted view to the reader which was often erroneous.
    As for the British media, I read The Telegraph or The Guardian, and do not give a moments notice to the BBC, which I feel closely resembles our own CNN.
    In a recent article, one of the two newspapers (I can’t remember which one) gave an excellent account of a British para unit which forced a 35 member Taliban squad from a small town. It concluded with the Brits chasing the remaining bad guys out, then sending in an American A-10 to finish off the rest of the fighters. Superb article and objective reporting.


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