US Predators hit training camp, vehicle in North and South Waziristan

The US launched a pair of attacks in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan today, killing 22 Taliban fighters and “foreigners.”

In the first strike, unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers launched at least five missiles at a “fortress-like militant compound” that is used as a training camp. The camp is located in the village of Zoynarai in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, which borders South Waziristan.

“Local residents described the camp as a major training centre on the top of a hill surrounded by trees and ice cold natural springs,” Dawn reported.

More than 20 people, including “foreign and militants from Pakistan’s central Punjab province” were killed during the strike in Shawal. The term “foreigners” is used to describe members of al Qaeda and other terror groups from outside Pakistan that are allied with al Qaeda. Punjabi “militants” belong to terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.

After the strike on the compound, the Predators or Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in a village near the first strike, but across the border in South Waziristan. Four “militants” were killed in the attack, according to Reuters.

No senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied terror group leader has been reported killed at this time.

The Shawal area of North Waziristan is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Bahadar provides shelter to top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations 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, the other major Taliban group based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

Today’s strikes take place just two days after the US launched three strikes in South Waziristan that killed 18 Taliban and Punjabi fighters. Four days ago, the US launched another strike in South Waziristan that also targeted Punjabi fighters. Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al Qaeda leader and the commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Brigade 313, is reported to have been killed in the strike, although the reports have not been confirmed. A purported statement released by HUJI announcing Kashmiri’s death contains errors, while a photograph supposedly showing Kashmiri after his death was that of a Lashkar-e-Taiba fighter killed during the November 2008 assault on Mumbai, India.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

The US has carried out six strikes this month. Five of the six strikes have taken place in South Waziristan.

So far this year, the US has carried out 34 strikes in Pakistan, and is well off the pace of the 2010 total of 117 attacks. In 2010, the US more than doubled the number of strikes that had occurred in 2009; by late August 2010, the US had 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 concentrated almost exclusively in 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 occurring outside of North Waziristan in 2010, seven were executed in South Waziristan, five were in Khyber, and one was in Kurram. That trend is largely holding true this year, but an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 24 of the 34 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan; the other 10 strikes have occurred in South Waziristan.

Since Sept. 1, 2010, the US has conducted 94 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks have aimed at the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 75 strikes in the tribal agency. Many of the strikes have 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 IJG 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. The campaign has been largely successful in focusing on terrorist targets and avoiding civilian casualties, as recently affirmed by the Pakistani military.

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.

Tags: , ,


  • Soccer says:

    Oh WOW Bill.
    I have thought before to myself about training camps in North Waziristan…. I’ve always thought that the militant leaders use massive fortresses as a way of showing their dominance and capability.
    One ting that bothers me is that locals in North Waziristan live with the militants and shelter them. Why? Don’t the locals know that innocent people will die because the militants were able to use THEIR land as a sanctuary and training ground? Do they care? I don’t think so.

  • steve m says:

    I don’t know the author, but this is an excellent open letter to Pasha.

  • kp says:

    Reuters says “Another intelligence official in the region said the militants had cordoned off the area and no-one was allowed to visit the sites of the attacks.”.

    Possibly a sign that a HVT has been hit.

  • Soccer says:

    How do “intelligence officials” know? Are they physically in North Waziristan, observing what is going on? A friend of mine thinks they are, and that they hide as ordinary villagers and they talk to the media through satellite phones. But wouldn’t that be the most dangerous job on the planet then? Who would do it?

  • JT says:

    At least FIVE missiles on one target. Must be either many people targeted or a very big fish or two.

  • kp says:

    @Soccer: ISI and Pak army has a presence in major towns in NW and SW e.g. Miram Shah there is a large army base. They also certainly have a network of informants (some locals; some Afghan … all Pashtun) that they seem to make use of. It is a dangerous job (and I’m sure quite a few have been killed). I’m sure they do it for money, personal and tribal reasons and perhaps because they don’t like the opfor (especially outsiders) in their region.

    They may even be releasing some pre strike info (i.e. they know that a given location is a Punjabi Taliban location from their intel sources). In some cases there may also be leakage from other info the ISI have (say from joint intel). I’m pretty sure the Pak intel official mostly get the their info correct.

    The CIA, DIA and USSOCOM don’t say anything.

  • Vienna,09-06-2011
    On non sovereign land of the pure bad land FATA unmanned
    drone strikes are inevitable. MUST. Because the law enforcement agencies, armed forces, secret services are
    all busy in selective genocide.Read the media of Pakistan
    you do not miss the news. After the separation of East Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971 the first time I read about selective intellectual genocide in Pakistan in daily online The News International of Jang(war) group by staffer Beena Sarwar.
    The visual media are full of footage of rangers shooting
    point blank a younger sibling of a journalist at Benazir
    Park, Karachi! The the cowards do not dare even to
    identify the missile dead militants, like even Ilyas
    Kashmiri under a tacit understanding with the militants.
    What the hell is the situation in Pakistan,I do not know
    how to describe it.
    I suggest a global fund by global media in support of Pakistani intellectual victims of genocide that includes educationists, journalists, students etc. The fund A/C
    must be net worked to global postal union so small
    donation deposits can be made with least bank service charges. Five dollars or five EUROs by a donor can
    obliterate the sufferings of the survivor kin.
    If any body takes initiative, I am game with my own
    Taravadu Taranga Trust Media Monitoring, TTMM to
    extend my mite, that two helps that should go my own
    old mouth.
    -Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • Soccer says:

    I’ve always wondered how the Razmak military school and the Miranshah military camp can continue to exist in NWA. Wouldn’t the Taliban and Al Qaeda attack the bases and slaughter everybody inside? I’ve seen videos and images of these installations, and they are not heavily guarded at all.
    What I also wonder, is I’ve seen videos of foreign Al Qaeda fighters raising flags in Miranshah markets and then beating and flogging and slapping villagers and shop owners. 1) Why would they tolerate being abused like that? and 2) If the Pak. army has a “large presence” in NWA, then how come these foreign extremists can roam the streets, roads, main towns and villages unharmed? It just doesn’t make sense at all, none of it does.

  • villiger says:

    Soccer, don’t be naive.
    Does any of this Islamic jihad AQ/T-style make any sense? Is the West fighting a Christian crusade? Are these savages capable of living and let-live?
    Pakistan birthed the Taliban and both befriended UBL/AQ.
    So, what surprises you more?–the fact that these guys are heathens, or that Pakistan is in cahoots with them?

  • Soccer says:

    I’m not being naive you ignoramus.
    I asked a simple question. Besides completely going off topic on your usual diatribes, can you ANSWER it? If not, I’d rather not hear your opinion in this thread.
    “Does any of this Islamic jihad AQ/T-style make any sense?”
    Yes, they are all savages. That makes perfect sense.
    “Is the West fighting a Christian crusade?”
    No, we are fighting a war under a UN mandate.
    “Are these savages capable of living and let-live?”
    No, they’ve said it themselves plenty of times. They went the Taliban/AQ Salafist Deobandist flavor of Islam spread “over all lands”. Their intentions are pretty clear to me.
    Now, can anybody answer my question about the bases in NWA?

  • Villiger says:

    You’re off-side Soccer and you’re bordering on being abusive. I’ll put down your frustration to feeling intellectually challenged. Nevertheless this is a site for grown-ups.
    You seem to have a persistent difficulty in grasping that Pakistan, especially the military, is in cahoots with the Taliban & AQ. When you understand that everything else falls into place. Can’t make it simpler than that.

  • Villiger says:

    You’re off-side Soccer and you’re bordering on being abusive. I’ll put down your frustration to feeling intellectually challenged. Nevertheless this is a site for grown-ups.
    You seem to have a persistent difficulty in grasping that Pakistan, especially the military, is in cahoots with the Taliban & AQ. When you understand that everything else falls into place. Can’t make it simpler than that.

  • Soccer says:

    Wow, you’re one to talk. I’m not intellectually challenged, I’m just responding to your emotional posts that border on being childish. If you think you’ve intellectually challenged me, you surely do think highly of yourself, albeit in a false sense of superiority. Maybe instead of calling me abusive you should look at your own tone you carry in your posts.
    “You seem to have a persistent difficulty in grasping that Pakistan, especially the military, is in cahoots with the Taliban & AQ. When you understand that everything else falls into place. Can’t make it simpler than that.”
    Once again, your ranting diatribes. Can’t you just answer my specific question? Why can’t you do that? Your blanket statements help nobody in answering these vital questions. Can’t you drop your internet pride for one moment to answer a question that will benefit anybody? No?

  • kp says:

    @Soccer: “Now, can anybody answer my question about the bases in NWA?”

    The Pak Army have nominal control of the garrison towns and the roads. They also set up checkpoints on the major roads. That does restrict the flow of AQ/Taliban a little (mostly to prevent them from moving into adjacent parts of FATA and KP). They seem to not cause too many problems for the Taliban and AQ e.g. a few years ago there was open outdoor training and IED practice in the outskirts of Miramshah. That was reined in when the drones became very active. The main center of activity seems to have moved out of Miramshah to Data Khell and Mir Ali where I don’t believe there is a Pak Army presence. And now down into Sharwal and the Razmak plateau on the NW/SW border.

    The ISI (and CIA … the Shawshank base as was in Miramshah) are active there and I’m sure they work the local population that’s the main reason for keepin a presence there.

    Why don’t the Taliban and AQ attack the Pak Army bases? A couple of reasons, I think.

    The first seems like a practical one: they don’t really have the skills or resources to waste in attacking a large (brigade-sized?) garrison especially if they want to hold the base. They could be continuing jihad in Afghanistan and (for the TTP) in the Punjab instead. A big attack would require all of the different groups to come together and fight a pitched battle. Even for their company sized operations they don’t seem to be very good at this even against less numerous opposition (given the evidence of their other attacks taking a similar level of casualties to the defenders).

    The second is what would they gain from this? Annoying the Pakistani government (and perhaps triggering a NW offensive) would be the major outcome and they’re not gaining or holding any new land. Remember they tried this a few years back as they spread out from FATA into KP heading for Islamabad. Eventually the Pak Army woke up and put them back in their box. I think they realize a conventional “liberation army” approach is not going to work for them as they really don’t have the manpower or support (especially in the Punjab and urban areas). I think they’re hoping that a really Islamist/Salafist Pak Army coup will bring them to power. I really don’t see that happening.

    The best model for their interaction is closer to the Mafia or a drug gang than a revolutionary army. Small numbers. Close ties. Likmited resources. Avoiding direct conflict with “the authorities” (and perhaps corrupting them if you can) is a much “lower energy” solution to get what you want. And wait for the government to collapse.

  • David says:

    It does make sense if you think of it this way — they are NOT an
    indigenous force representing their people. They are much more
    analogous to a criminal gang that has been empowered by an outside force, in exchange for some military favors.
    If a foreign force had come to New York and empowered the Mafia to take over, in exchange for the Mafia supplying gunmen,
    the Mafia would probably treat other New Yorkers exactly as the
    Taliban does. The foreign force doesn’t care how the Mafia treats us, even if it builds a base for itself here. This is why it is a fallacy for the media to treat the Taliban as if they had lots of local support.

  • Soccer says:

    Well kp, the Shawshank base was closed last year. So you are saying the reason they can stay there is because the population supports them? Because from all the jihadis I’ve talked to, and the research I’ve done on the NWA, it seems the locals support the foreign and local jihadists over anybody else. But then again, it might just be because they have to, or else they will be killed.

  • Soccer says:

    “I think they’re hoping that a really Islamist/Salafist Pak Army coup will bring them to power. I really don’t see that happening.”
    Neither do I, but some posters on this web site would disagree with us. Some even think it is an imminent threat. That would be Zia Ul Haq’s ultimate dream come true. Heh.
    kp, I may detect some optimism in your posts, however I must ask one very important question: Do you think the threat from the TTP and AQ is exaggerated? Do you think it is reduced from what it once was? You have an upbeat tone in your post that gives a lot of credence to the Pak. army and security forces and ISI.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram