US Predators strike again in North Waziristan

US Predators struck again in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing four militants in the same village where a senior Haqqani Network leader was killed yesterday.

The unmanned, CIA-operated Predators, or the more deadly Reapers, fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in the village of Danda Darpa Khel just outside Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, according to AFP. Four “militants” were killed in the strike; no senior leaders have been reported killed.

Today’s strike in Danda Darpa Khel is the second in the village in two days. A strike there yesterday killed Jan Baz Zadran, a top-level coordinator for the Haqqani Network who has been described as the organization’s third in command. Jan Baz was the key deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the terror network. He is the senior-most Haqqani Network leader killed or captured by US and Afghan forces in the past three weeks. On Sept. 27, special operations forces captured Haji Mali Khan, the Haqqani Network’s operational commander for Afghanistan, during a raid in Paktia province.

The two other militants killed with Jan Baz were identified as Maulana Iftikhar and Noor Ali Shah. Locals described them as participating in “jihad,” or holy war, Dawn reported.

The village of Danda Darpa Khel is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network. In the past, the US has carried out several attacks against the Haqqani Network in the village.

Jan Baz is the second senior Haqqani Network commander killed in Darpa Danda Khel in the past two years. On Feb. 18, 2010, the US killed Mohammed Haqqani, one of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the family, in an airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network.

Background on the Haqqani Network

The Haqqani Network operates primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika, and also has an extensive presence in Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz. The Haqqani Network has become a focus of ISAF operations in Afghanistan and CIA operations in Pakistan, as the terror group remains entrenched in the Afghan east and continues to direct high-profile attacks in Kabul. In August, Major General Daniel Allyn, Commanding General of Regional Commander East, told The Long War Journal that the Haqqani Network is “enemy number one.”

The terror group has close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan, a tribal agency in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has also extended its presence into the tribal agency of Kurram.

In North Waziristan, the Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces. The Haqqanis also run madrassas, or religious schools, in the area that serve to radicalize Pakistani youth to wage jihad. In addition, the Haqqanis have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives, as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network has been implicated in some of the biggest terror attacks in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, including the January 2008 suicide assault on the Serena hotel, the February 2009 assault on Afghan ministries, and the July 2008 and October 2009 suicide attacks against the Indian embassy.

The terror group collaborated with elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service in at least one of these attacks. In the past, American intelligence agencies have confronted the Pakistani government with evidence, including communications intercepts, which proved the ISI’s direct involvement in the 2008 Indian embassy bombing. [See LWJ report Pakistan’s Jihad and Threat Matrix report Pakistan backs Afghan Taliban for additional information on the ISI’s complicity in attacks in Afghanistan and the region.]

Most recently, the US and the Afghan government have linked the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s intelligence service to the June 2011 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and to the attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters in September. In September, Admiral Michael Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Haqqani Network of being one of several “[e]xtremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan.”

Over the past few years, six of the Haqqani Network’s top leaders have been added to the US’ list of specially designated global terrorists. All six commanders have close ties to al Qaeda. Those Haqqani Network leaders designated as global terrorists are:

  • Siraj Haqqani, who also is a member of al Qaeda’s executive council. Designated as a global terrorist in March 2008.
  • Nasiruddin Haqqani, a key financier and “emissary” for the Haqqani Network. Designated as a global terrorist in July 2010.
  • Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network who also aids al Qaeda. Designated as a global terrorist in February 2011.
  • Badruddin Haqqani, an operational commander who also aids al Qaeda. Designated as a global terrorist in May 2011.
  • Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a top military commander in eastern Afghanistan who supports al Qaeda’s operation. Designated as a global terrorist in August 2011.
  • Abdul Aziz Abbasin, a key commander in the Haqqani Network who is currently the Taliban’s shadow governor for Orgun district in Paktika province. Designated as a global terrorist in September 2011.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, and Badruddin and the brother of Khalil and brother-in-law of Khan, has not been added to the US’ list of terrorists, despite his close links to both the Taliban and al Qaeda. In an interview with Al Somood, the Taliban’s official magazine, Jalaluddin admitted that he served on the Taliban’s executive council, which is known as the Quetta Shura.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

Today’s strike is the third in Pakistan’s tribal areas in two days, and the third this month. In addition to yesterday’s strike in Danda Darpa Khel, US Predators hit a Taliban mortar team in South Waziristan.

The pace of the US strikes has been uneven over the past year, and the monthly strike totals have generally decreased. From January through September 2011, the strikes in Pakistan were as follows: nine strikes in January, three in February, seven in March, two in April, seven in May, 12 in June, three in July, six in August, and four in September. In the last four months of 2010, the US averaged almost 16 strikes per month (21 in September, 16 in October, 14 in November, and 12 in December).

So far this year, the US has carried out 56 strikes in Pakistan. In 2010, the US carried out 117 strikes, which 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.

This year, that pattern has changed, as an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 34 of the 56 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan, 20 strikes have occurred in South Waziristan, and one took place in Kurram.

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.

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3 Comments

  • ArneFufkin says:

    I like this tempo much-much.
    It seems to me that moving David Petraeus from ISAF Commander to the D/CIA provides the best of all worlds. He knows all the players in the region, the geopolitical landscape and doubtless has a very personal interest in the Haqqani thugs given the mayhem they’ve foisted upon his troops and the OEF mission these past several years in particular.

  • Mr T says:

    Locals described them as participating in “jihad,” or holy war
    Yeah so the guy down the street has lots of guns and explosives and he and his henchmen murder people all over the place including in Pakistan and Afghanistan but everyone is ok with it because he is participating in “jihad”.
    Everyone including the local police probably know it too but its ok for them that he is instrumental in the death of so many including Muslims because he told them it was for “jihad”. What a warped society. It sounds like someone came to their senses and turned him in for drone targeting. Jihad my turban. He kills people for power and money.

  • rags says:

    India ,Watch out…,If USA takes action in North Wazharistan, cornered Pakistan may use dirty bombs against india.
    We have to be more than vigilant this time than ever.
    Hope concerned are taking note!!!!!
    Concerned Indian.

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