Taliban, Pakistani troops fight over downed US drone in South Waziristan

Pakistani soldiers and Taliban fighters clashed over the wreckage of an unmanned US strike aircraft that crashed in the lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan.

The Predator or the more heavily armed Reaper crashed last night in the town of Zangara in the Ladha area of South Waziristan. According to reports from the region, Taliban forces under the command of Azmatullah Diwana seized the wreckage of the drone after it crashed. Although Azmatullah claimed the Taliban shot the aircraft down, the cause of the crash is not yet known.

The Pakistani military dispatched troops to take control of the wreckage after intercepting Taliban radio transmissions. Three Taliban fighters and a Pakistani solider were reported killed in the ensuing clash. Pakistani troops also deployed helicopter gunships to strafe Taliban positions during the fight.

It is unclear whether the drone debris is in the possession of the Pakistani military or the Taliban. Azmatullah claimed his forces repelled the military, while Pakistani security officials claimed they took control of the wreckage.

The crash and the ensuing fight took place in an area that is dominated by the Mehsud tribe and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud, the group’s founder and first emir, was killed in a Predator airstrike in Zangara in August 2009. Zangara was also the location of a Taliban training camp. The US killed 16 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in a Predator strike on the Zangara camp on July 7, 2009.

Azmatullah Diwana is another name for Maulvi Azmatullah, the military commander who is number five on the Pakistani military’s list of 20 most-wanted Taliban leaders in South Waziristan. The Taliban’s top leadership in South Waziristan still remains intact. Since the Pakistani military released the list in the fall of 2009, only two Taliban leaders have been killed and one other has been captured.

In mid-November of 2009, the Pakistani military claimed to have defeated the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s branch in South Waziristan after having launched an operation there. But the Taliban group withdrew its forces from the Mehsud tribal areas and relocated to neighboring tribal areas. Azmatullah’s presence in the Ladha area indicates that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has returned in force to South Waziristan.


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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  • Villiger says:

    Was this at the behest of their Chinese masters?

  • Charu says:

    Translation: China and Saudi Arabia fight over downed US drone.

  • Charley says:

    Shows you Pakistan will act decisively on behalf of the Chinese to get the debris for inspection and reverse engineering.

  • Richard says:

    it is probably better that the AQ have our technology than China, I mean Pakistan. Azmatullah can’t be believed. He would sell his sister as a virgin.
    Why don’t we hit the wreckage with an airstrike?

  • Charles says:

    The question at issue between the taliban and the pakistanis is “who will get the sell the pieces to the chinese”

  • Marlin says:

    I realize that South Waziristan is not the same as North Waziristan where the Pakistani Army has been procrastinating forever about enforcing their will, but it’s pretty funny to see how quickly and how willing they are to go into the Waziristans when there is something there they want. Talk about hypocrisy!

  • Charles Martel says:

    The Taliban want it to showcase in their next propaganda video where they’ll claim to have shot down half the US Air Force, and the Pakis want it to sell to the Chinese. That being the case the Taliban is the lesser of two evils but nonetheless we should obliterate anyone who even comes close to it.

  • ED says:


  • It is Pakistan itself which is capable of doing reverse engineering as they have doen with Nukes.USA is so happy with Pakistan’s Army Chief he is given the heighest Militry honour in Spain by the Sapin’s Monarch for his contribution for war on terror?

  • naresh c. says:

    If enough of them kill each other, then a fallen drone was worth it.

  • Neonmeat says:

    Self destruct button needed!

  • Eric says:

    I had a conniption fit back in ’02 when the EC3 Hawkeye was forced down on Hainan island into the hands of the Chinese, and we did not take action to destroy it by missile strike before the chinese could exploit it.
    I am turning purple all over again watching the same inaction on this drone.
    Gut-check, guys: there is no better time or place for follow-up strikes.
    You can argue that a tomohawk strike on the EC3 on Hainan would be too far into provocation with the PRC, and I would counter that it would have set precisely the correct precedent to conflict with the Chinese to have done so, after fair warning not to approach the aircraft, and to alert the firefighting crews.
    Here and now, you cannot even claim you fear killing innocents – the freakin TTP have the thing cordoned off!! Warn the Pak troops away, and light them up.
    If we fail to exploit this, someone needs to find a new desk to command.
    I will go drink whiskey now.

  • Nic says:

    Richard makes an excellent point. Assuming that the video link was not lost, the pilot would have the video feed of the crash. Secondly, these UAVs operate in groups so another UAV would have been near. The crash would have destroyed or badly damaged anything on the ground at the crash site so putting a Hellfire into the wreckage would not have caused significant additional ground damage. The downed UAV should have been destroyed moments after the crash and thus long before any people could get near the wreckage. Additional comments welcomed.

  • wallbangr says:

    A follow on pred strike coulda’ killed a whole lotta birds of the same feather with one stone. Er, hellfire…

  • hillbilly says:

    do you folks remember the tomhawk missile that landed in pakistan instead of osama’s hide out? well that missile gave a significant boost to our ( pakistan ) cruise missile program ….for the last 2 years we were looking forward to a UAV crash……its a gift from heavens … hahaha

  • Soccer says:

    Yes, they have bases and outposts both in the North and South of Waziristan.
    The Taliban claimed they shot 4 drones down in this incident, and cordoned off the area and showed their ‘fellow mujahideen’ and local villagers the rubble and wreckage, at which time they were ambushed by Pakistani forces and a huge firefight ensued in which the Taliban killed 54 Pakistani soldiers, and then walked over and stole their weapons and ammo, at which time there was an absolutely massive airstrike from a drone which martyred 14 Taliban fighters as well as 23 civilians with a chemical weapons bomb. And then a second drone came by after and started dropping chemical bombs and missiles dozens of times over the area.

  • mike merlo says:

    sounds like we need to be ‘crashing’ more drones in Pakistan

  • CC says:

    This isnt the first UAV crash in Pakistan. And its going to take a hell of a lot more than a crashed drone for Pakistan to become militarily relevant. By the time they reverse engineer it and field a prototype, the U.S will already be making unmanned carrier fighters.

  • kit says:

    Can we please build a dummy drone and booby trap it, its a lot more cost effective? oh and no collateral damage. PERFECT weapon!

  • Jose says:

    If it where I, I would configure an old moth-balled 747-400 as a remote controlled drone. Load it with 100,000 pounds of fuel, and 4 MOAB’s…..and crash-land it into our Enemy’s largest training camp. I guess they like airplane bombs so much, well, let them have this. Let’s start getting creative.


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