Pakistan’s Army chief ‘condemns’ US Predator airstrike in Datta Khel

In an unusual move, Pakistan’s top military commander has denounced today’s airstrike in North Waziristan that was carried out by CIA-operated Predator aircraft. Pakistani officials are claiming that more than 20 civilians were killed in the strike.

In a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, spoke out against today’s airstrike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, a known haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

“Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, strongly condemns the Predator Strike carried out today in North Waziristan Agency resulting into loss of innocent lives,” according to the statement, which was released on the ISPR website. “It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life. In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains.”

Kayani also called the airstrike a “senseless attack” and “aggression against people of Pakistan,” and ordered the Army to help those killed in the strike.

Kayani’s statement was preceded by another from Syed Masood Kausar, the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, who claimed that a tribal jirga, or council, was hit.

Initial reports indicated that more than 30 Taliban fighters, including Sharabat Khan, a top lieutenant of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, were killed when the unmanned Predators or Reapers fired several missiles at a compound known to be used by the Taliban and other “militants.” [See LWJ report, US Predators strike again in al Qaeda stronghold of Datta Khel.]

But The New York Times later reported that the jirga was held to settle a mining dispute between local tribes, and was being mediated by the Taliban. Eleven Taliban fighters, including Khan, the Taliban commander, and 21 tribal leaders and attendees are reported to have been killed. The Taliban have an interest in settling disputes in order to tax the sales of chromite, the The New York Times noted.

The denunciations by Kayani and Kausar of today’s strike mark an unusual turn in Pakistan’s handling of the issue of US airstrikes on Pakistani territory. In the past, while publicly stating that the strikes are unhelpful, Pakistani officials have failed to weigh in on individual attacks. Kayani himself has previously remained silent about the strikes, while the Pakistani military has quietly aided the CIA in gathering intelligence and executing the attacks.

The denunciations also take place one day after Pakistan freed Raymond Davis, a CIA employee who is thought to have gathered information on Pakistani terror groups and supported the Predator strikes. Davis was arrested in Lahore after shooting and killing two Pakistanis who reportedly attempted to rob him. He also is suspected of tracking links between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate and the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Jazeera reports. In addition, some have alleged that the two men he killed were ISI operatives.

Davis’ release has sparked protests among Islamists and nationalists alike. Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed issued a statement today through his charitable front, Jamaat ud Dawa, condemning the decision to release Davis as a “cruel act” that “has hurt the sentiments of the whole nation.”

Today’s statement by Kayani may have been made to deflect some of the criticism over Davis’ release. Also, the statement may have been designed to ease the US pressure to launch an operation in North Waziristan. The US has been pressuring the Pakistani military to move against the Taliban and al Qaeda in North Waziristan, as the tribal agency is used to host al Qaeda’s leadership and external operations network as well as to support terrorist operations in Afghanistan.

Datta Khel is one of the most targeted areas in the CIA’s air campaign in Pakistan. Forty-five of the 234 strikes, or 19 percent, have taken place in Datta Khel since the US began carrying out strikes in Pakistan in 2004, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. And so far this year, eight of the 19 strikes in Pakistan have taken place in Datta Khel.

Today’s strike is the second in the Datta Khel area in two days, and the third in Datta Khel since Feb. 21. Several top al Qaeda commanders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, have been killed in strikes in Datta Khel.

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:

    “It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains.”
    If this was an attack on innocent “peaceful” civilians, how can it be a “tactical gain?”
    It sounds like maybe this was a highly successful strike against the “good” Taliban.

  • Charu says:

    Ooooh! Kayani’s “good” Taliban must have been targeted. The last time one of their prime Haqqani assets nearly met his 72 virgins, the Pakistanis threw a hissy fit and NATO supply trucks took a hit. OTOH, it may indeed be more Kabuki theater from Kayani seeking to inoculate himself from the Davis release fallout.

  • shane says:

    They are probably upset because the head of the ISI was probably there

  • Paul says:

    Let me get out my violin. Like the previous person said…ISI was there. The only reason they could be upset about it. Oh…..and the Taliban never are callous or have disregard for life. They just bomb girls schools and behead tribal chiefs and innocent people they accuse of spying and blow up funerals. Give me a break…..somebody smack that guy in pakistan for me.

  • ed says:


  • MalangJan says:

    The attack was against Sharbat Khan a top commander of Bahader Khan, good Taliban who want to liberate Afghanistan for ISI. That is why Pak Army establishment is issuing politcal statements. This way they are better placed to demand additional military hardware & money from US politicians. Poor Sharbat Khan my fellow Pashtun died for nothing. May be the drones was operating from a Pakistani Airport, & freind of Sharbat Khan in ISI were directing it from ground. Well done Punajbi ISI, you are champs.
    I am scared to death, as the angry sonen/daughter of Sharbat Khan on first oppertunity will wear a sucide belt & blow me up in shopping market or mosque or at funneral. Such is my fate, a fate of Pashtun that you would wish was nerver born.

  • Paul says:

    PS: There is no “good”Taliban. Just like there is no good satan.

  • Exactly says:

    The most probable reason for Kayani’s latest statement as he goes about his business of playing both sides of the street is,
    To confirm we took out some very important “Big Fish”.

  • Henrik says:

    Interesting bit about Raymond Davis:
    He was officially released because the families of the two dead paid blood money.
    Less officially, he was released after the ISI had rounded up all the people (between 30 and 50) he had coded into his cell phone or called with it.
    That doesnt look like an investigation of a double murder. That looks like attempts to blow his network of informers.

  • JT says:

    Tonight the Dawn web site is requesting a security confirmation to enter it. Interesting.

  • sports says:

    The lesson is that if you sleep with a dog that has fleas then you probably have fleas too.

  • How is attacking ISAF forces liberating Afghanistan from ISI? If that’s Bahader Khan’s MO, I would seriously suggest reconsidering priorities.

  • Mr T says:

    I read the tactical gain as they would not allow us to hit that group but we did it anyway to get a tactical advantage, mainly killing some important people that are fighting against us.
    Good for us, bad for Kayani as he controls who we can and can not hit.
    I still believe one of the reasons we rarely hit a high value target is that they are warned we are coming from the ISI. In this case, we did a misdirection and did the unexpected so the people there did not get their warning. The people and the ISI are angry about that, not the loss of innocent life. They don’t strike me as people that really care that much about the innocents.

  • Charu says:

    “Pakistan told the United States Friday it would not attend a meeting on Afghanistan later this month, angered by a U.S. missile strike that killed 41 people and drew rare condemnation from the country’s powerful military chief.”
    I’m beginning to think that this was our payback to the Pakistanis for Davis’ captivity. The Pakistanis are clearly displeased, and therefore the logical conclusion is that we did the right thing. Since the Pakistanis won’t attend this meeting, how about extending an invitation to Russia and India? That will bring Kayani to heel in a hurry.

  • Grim says:

    Boo Hoo, like everyone has said “Don’t be around Taliban if you value your life.” Kayani’s comments are probably just his way of playing the double game but are still annoying. I got an idea if the GoP does not like us doing missile strikes in their country, clean up your mess so we don’t have to. It is just that simple or thank us for doing it because it saves the lives of the Pakistani soldiers that would be lost if they tried to do it themselves. Regardless, these evil people need to die. We did not start this war but we should finish it decisively.

  • Villiger says:

    Pretty bad timing coming just a day after Davis’s release. (Especially true if they could have separated the militant targets (car?) and desisted the tribal meeting (compound).
    It is the kind of thing thats not helpful to earning the goodwill of the Pak people. I don’t care if Americans do or don’t do–Pakistan are your allies by choice. But this is also the kind of thing, if no explanations are forthcoming or are considered unwarranted, that earns America suspicion around the world.

  • kp says:

    @JT: Dawn has been doing that on an off for a while now. Not sure what triggers it or why. Later yesterday it was fine. I suspect someone might be DDOSing them or some other automated attack.

  • kp says:

    @JT: Dawn has been doing that on an off for a while now. Not sure what triggers it or why. Later yesterday it was fine. I suspect someone might be DDOSing them or some other automated attack.

  • Ben says:

    Pakistanis have finally started asserting their country

  • Villiger says:

    For all those celebrating this as a win, its worth keeping in mind that less than 10 days ago, for the first time, a Pakistani General stood up for the drones and said they were essentially hitting terrorists.
    Mullen and Petraeus’s mtg in Oman with Kayani would also have contributed to building trust.
    Looks like these recent gains are being lost, just at a time where synergy could make all the difference, not that the latter is by any means guaranteed.

  • crusader says:

    i dont understand why does not the us play both sides?
    why dont they inform the double playing isi where and when they will hit a target (knowing that isi will inform them about it) then see where they go and who they meet…
    then afterwards what could possibly isi do about it?
    calling us traitors for changing our minds at the last minute before the strike?
    can anyone tell me why this do not occur?

  • Naresh C. says:

    When a Pakistani general protests, he is merely asking for more bribes to buy a condo in Dubai.


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