US drones killed four “militants” and one civilian in a strike today on a compound in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Pakistani officials told Dawn that the unmanned Predators or Reapers fired three missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Tappi near Miramshah in North Waziristan. “The official sources also said that three cows have also been killed as the house was completely destroyed,” Dawn reported.
The target of today’s strike has not been disclosed. No senior al Qaeda or allied jihadist commanders from foreign terrorist groups are reported to have been killed in the strike.
Terrorists are known to have sheltered in the village of Tappi in the past. The US has struck at targets in the village five other times since the beginning of 2008, according to data on the strikes that has been compiled by The Long War Journal.
The Haqqani Network, a Taliban group that operates in North Waziristan and Kurram, as well as in eastern Afghanistan, administers the area where today’s attack took place. Al Qaeda leaders and operatives, who are closely allied with the Haqqani Network, shelter in the area, as do other terror groups. The US added the Haqqani Network to the list of global terror groups in September 2012 for supporting al Qaeda and conducting attacks in Afghanistan.
Background on the US strikes in Pakistan
Today’s strike is the fourth in Pakistan this month and the first since Oct. 11, when the drone strayed outside the traditional “kill boxes” of North and South Waziristan and hit a camp in Arakzai. Sixteen “militants” loyal to Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar were killed in the strike.
Today’s strike is the 19th in Pakistan since June 4, when the US killed Abu Yahya al Libi, one of al Qaeda’s top leaders, propagandists, and religious figures. Abu Yahya was killed in a strike on a compound in Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkmen fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were reportedly among the 14 terrorists killed along with Abu Yahya.
The US has carried out 40 strikes in Pakistan so far this year. Twenty-one of the strikes have taken place since the beginning of June; 18 occurred in North Waziristan, two were in South Waziristan, and one has taken place in Arakzai. [For data on the strikes, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012; and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012.]
The drone program was scaled back dramatically from the end of March to the beginning of the fourth week in May. Between March 30 and May 22, the US conducted only three drones strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as US officials attempted to renegotiate the reopening of NATO’s supply lines, which were closed from the end of November 2011 until July 3. Pakistan closed the supply lines following the Mohmand incident in November 2011, in which US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani soldiers were killed after they opened fire on US troops operating across the border in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
In addition to Abu Yahya, three other high-value targets have been confirmed killed in the strikes in Pakistan this year. A Jan. 11 strike in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, killed Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network.
On Feb. 8, the US killed Badr Mansoor, a senior Taliban and al Qaeda leader, in a strike in Miramshah’s bazaar. Mansoor ran training camps in the area and sent fighters to battle NATO and Afghan forces across the border, and linked up members of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen with al Qaeda to fight in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden described Mansoor as one of several commanders of al Qaeda’s “companies” operating in the tribal areas. He was later promoted to lead al Qaeda’s forces in the tribal areas.
And sometime earlier this year, a US drone strike killed Abu Usman Adil, the emir of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Adil succeeded Tahir Yuldashev, the co-founder of the IMU, who was killed in a drone strike in September 2009. Adil is credited with increasing the IMU’s profile in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the death of Yuldashev, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Whereas Yuldashev had been content with confining the group’s operations largely to Pakistan’s tribal areas, Adil pushed to expand operations in northern and eastern Afghanistan, as well as in the Central Asian republics.
Four senior jihadist leaders, including Abu Kasha al Iraqi and Fateh al Turki, are reported to have been killed in drone strikes in North Waziristan since the beginning of August, although their deaths have not been confirmed. Badruddin Haqqani, a top leader in the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, is thought to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and a Haqqani Network spokesman denied reports that claimed Badruddin was killed, and said he “is in the country and he is occupied with his operational responsibilities.” Afghan, Pakistani, and US intelligence officials have said that Badruddin is dead.
And Emeti Yakuf, who is also known as Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, may have been killed in the Aug. 24 drone strike in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley that hit a training camp. Yakuf directs al Qaeda operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The program has been scaled down from its peak in 2010, when the US conducted 117 strikes, according to data collected by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US carried out just 64 strikes in Pakistan’s border regions.
So far this year, the US has launched six more strikes in Pakistan (40) against al Qaeda and allied terror groups than it has in Yemen (34) against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In 2011, the US launched only 10 airstrikes in Yemen, versus 64 in Pakistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.