US Predators kill 4 ‘foreigners’ in North Waziristan strike

US Predators struck again in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled, al Qaeda haven of North Waziristan, killing four “foreigners.”

Today’s strike took place in the village of Hyderkhel in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. Unmanned Predators, or the more heavily armed Reapers, “fired two missiles at a militant compound” in the village, a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP.

Four “foreigners,” a term used to describe Arab al Qaeda or Central Asian terrorists, are reported to have been killed, the Pakistani official said. No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or other terrorist leaders have been reported killed in today’s strike.

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. Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area. Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils.

Since Sept. 8, 2010, 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.

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 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.

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

The US has launched five Predator strikes inside Pakistan this year; all five strikes have hit targets in North Waziristan.

The pace of the strikes from the beginning of September 2010 until the end of December has been 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, 14 in November, and 12 in December. 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 carried out 117 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 – 2011.]

In 2010 the strikes were 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 the 117 strikes took place North Waziristan. Of the 13 strikes that 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 67 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks have aimed at the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 61 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 – 2011.]

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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  • Bill Roggio says:

    All I can say is don’t hold your breath. The Paks said the same thing in Jan. 2010, and all summer too.

  • Icarus says:

    Well last year they used floods as an excuse (legitimate reason). Unless another disaster hits Pakistan this year, they will not be able to withstand enormous pressure.

  • blert says:

    My first impression is that winter warfare is something that the locals don’t do.
    They don’t have the clothing or doctrine or resources to brave the elements.
    So this season may be a time of great punishment.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The excuses were made long before the flood…

  • Nick says:

    A North Waziristan offensive would probably kill many, many MANY Pakistani soldiers Bill. You do understand that they also have many other problems in the country that are socioeconomic and need to be addressed, right?
    Even if they were supported by U.S. drones, I honestly do not think that the Pakistani forces want to/COULD occupy, clear and secure the area anyways. They would face hostile fire from everywhere, with too many groups focused on their destruction.

  • JRP says:

    To truly incentivize the Pakistani Army to seriously tackle the Taliban and Al Qaeda in North Waziristan, maybe we should point out to it that nothing would prepare it more for a war with India, were that to occur, than actual combat experience. The Mexican War prepared Union and Confederate junior officers for their roles in the U.S. Civil War; the Spanish Civil War prepared Germany’s Army and Air Force for WWII; there are plenty of similar examples. Obviously India would not appreciate the U.S. suggesting such an incentive to Pakistan, but it is a thought.

  • Villiger says:

    Look Sirs, Pakistan as a country is rotten to the core. The PakMil is the core. The myth of the Pak Army’s prowess will ultimately be exposed.
    Minus their nukes, they have no clothes.
    What the US needs to be doing is to disarm Pak of its nukes, with UN support. (The Pak paradigm has shifted fundamentally from when it first acquired its nukes to the present time, surely.) It can’t do this because Pak is an “ally” and the whole of Pakistan to the last man will shout “see this is what the US’s intentions in Pak were all along”. Catch-22.
    Meantime we’re all marking time. Very expensive time.
    Measurements like the cost per drone or hellfire missile are meaningless. What is the cost per enemy combatant killed, aggregated across AfPak?
    Pakistan wants to play chess and its good at it. The US should start playing dominos–game-changer. Its insane to go on and on and on playing a stalemated chess game expecting a result.

  • These terrorists are like cockroaches. No matter what effort their hunters would do to them, they can still sneak out and create destruction somewhere or desperately do suicide bombing.

  • JT says:

    Even some of the “actual” operations by the Pak military in other areas have been less than effective. They have been talking about North Wazoo for some time.
    I’ll believe it if and when it happens. References to UN Resolution 1373 would be nice to hear. Then the US should make it clear to everyone that if Pak doesn’t take care of North Wazoo, the US will.

  • Villiger says:

    I can assure you, i had not read the SUMIT GANGULY, DAVID P. FIDLER article linked below when i wrote my last comment above
    My conclusion on insanity coincides with the title to this article
    which can also be found at the npr albeit with a different title ” Foreign Policy: Biden, Stop Bribing Pakistan”, equally appropriate.
    Still i’d like to believe that Biden has, in his private meeting with Kayani, talked about the Durand Line and about Balochistan and the CIA’s impatience to twist some knives.
    And of course as JT rightly says UN resolution 1373 and its implications throughout the shifting badlands.

  • blert says:

    What video of Pak Army activity I’ve see shows it to be no match for AQ trained fighters.
    Based upon the few attempts made, it must be apparent that the Pak Army is afraid – really afraid of the Taliban irregulars.
    The terrain in the FATA is W-A-Y too much for the mechanized elements of their army, so it’d have to be WWI in the mountains.
    Their air force is not up to the task — even with F16s.
    Active operations use a lot of fuel — and Islamabad is broke.
    And beyond all other considerations real peace in the area would likely lead to Pashtun unification… with Kabul !
    All of Islamabad’s gambits are oriented towards keeping the FATA in its orbit. That’s why Islamabad practices what — in dating circles is called — “Push-Pull.”
    The ISI is stuck at Push-Pull because it pays off the best.
    Further global economic distress is likely to lock-up the Pakistani economy completely. Food riots dead ahead!
    Our response should be to ‘fade’ further weapons shipments to Islamabad, for they won’t be under current management for long.

  • Villiger says:

    blert, good summary! I’m with you, on all counts.
    And for those who think that Breaking up is hard to do….maybe now there’s another take…


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