‘Good Taliban’ leader Mullah Nazir killed in US drone strike

South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir [bottom-center].

The US killed a senior Taliban leader in one of three drone strikes that took place in the Pakistani tribal areas over the past 24 hours; he had identified himself as an al Qaeda leader and also was favored by the Pakistani state. A separate strike killed a commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan along with two Uzbeks.

Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Taliban in the Wazir area of South Waziristan, was killed by the CIA-operated Predators or Reapers in a strike in the Birmal area of South Waziristan, tribal leaders and Pakistani intelligence officials told Dawn. The remotely piloted drones fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle, killing Nazir; two of his deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan; a commander known as Rata Khan; and two other fighters.

Pakistani officials in South Waziristan said that the Taliban buried Nazir at a graveyard in the Azam Warzak area of South Waziristan.

Nazir and his followers have been the targets of numerous US drone strikes in the past several years. Of the 328 strikes since 2004, 81 have hit targets in South Waziristan. Several of Nazir’s deputies and commanders have been killed in those strikes.

In a separate strike, US drones killed Faisal Khan, a Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan commander, and two Uzbeks as they traveled in a vehicle in the village of Mubarak Shahi in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, Dawn reported. The drones circled back and fired a second salvo of missiles as rescue workers attempted to recover the bodies, but it is unclear if anyone else was killed in the follow-on strike.

Additionally, the US killed five “militants” in a strike that targeted a compound in the Angoor Agga area of South Waziristan late last night. The identities of those killed have not been disclosed.

The US has now launched three drone strikes in Pakistan this year. Last year, the US launched 46 strikes in Pakistan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US launched 64 strikes; in 2010, when the program was at its peak, there were 117 strikes.

The program was ramped up by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2008 (35 strikes were launched that year) and continued under President Barack Obama after he took office in 2009 (53 strikes that year). From 2004-2007, only 10 strikes were recorded. Although some of al Qaeda’s top leaders have been killed in drone strikes since the program began in 2004, al Qaeda has been able to replace those lost in the attacks. [For data on the strikes, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013; and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013.]

Background on Mullah Nazir

Nazir has been an influential Taliban commander and had ties to numerous terrorist groups operating in the region, including al Qaeda, the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, and the plethora of Pakistani and Central Asia jihadist groups operating in the region. He has openly supported Taliban emir Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Asia Times, Nazir rejected claims that he opposed al Qaeda, and affirmed that he considered himself to be a member of the global terror organization.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers “good Taliban” as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state and only wage jihad in Afghanistan. The government has negotiated several peace deals with Nazir. Yet Nazir continued to provide safe have to top al Qaeda leaders and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, despite agreeing not to do so.

Several top al Qaeda leaders, including Ilyas Kashmiri, Abu Khabab al Masri, Osama al Kini, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, and Abu Zaid al Iraqi, have been killed while being sheltered by Nazir. [For more information on Nazir and al Qaeda leaders killed while under his protection, see LWJ reports, ‘Good’ Pakistani Taliban leader Nazir affirms membership in al Qaeda, and US drones kill ‘good’ Taliban commander in South Wazirstan.]

Mullah Nazir’s Taliban faction is one of four major Taliban groups that joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda in late 2011. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; the Haqqani Network; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US in Afghanistan, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.

In June 2012, Nazir banned polio vaccinations in his areas, and claimed that the program is being used by the US to gather intelligence and conduct drone strikes in the tribal areas. His action followed that of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who shut down the program in North Waziristan earlier that month.

Nazir’s death in a drone strike took place just five weeks after he was the target of a suicide attack in Wana in South Waziristan. Nazir survived the suicide bombing, but six other people were killed.

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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  • Hibeam says:

    Are we sure it was a drone? Maybe his Turban was wired to detonate by Zawahiri?

  • Hibeam says:

    I’m not sure what he was before this strike but he is a “Good Taliban” now.

  • Jack Williams says:

    Good riddance and hope more are to follow.
    Perhaps we should expand the target list to include those (Pakistani, Gulf, etc.) that are planning, managing and financing the war against NATO as well as those poor saps that are fighting it. I wouldn’t mind if a few fellow travelers, sympathizers, recruiters, ad-men, publicizers, and money men were retired to the farm.
    “The drones circled back and fired a second salvo of missiles as rescue workers”… taking off the gloves is a good idea. Graduated response was a failure in Vietnam.. and the reputation of that policy to encourage the settlement of a war has not been enhanced since.

  • gitsum says:

    Hey Happy New Year there so called Good Taliban. Way to go drone pilots, see to it that you make some more Good Taliban with a Hellfire up there tailpipes.

  • Devendra says:

    Mullah Nazir has been granted his wish to meet Allah in the cause of Jihad. Thanks be to the Drones.
    Now, PLEASE EXPEDITE the meeting with Allah for Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Jawahiri.

  • Jason Blatter says:

    Right on Hibeam, as “the only good taliban is a dead taliban”
    Even better knowing how pissed certain factions of the PAK government are right now…..

  • wallbangr says:

    I hope the Paks and their ISI are just seething over this. About time we sent the message that their convenient myth of a “good taliban” will do nothing to stop us from icing these guys.

  • Dan says:

    After the failied suicide attack on mullah nazir, they took revenge and killed a ttp comander, after that i knew the next to die would be hakimullah mehsud or mullah nazir. It looks like
    a supporter of hakimullah placed a tracking device on mullah nazir’s vehicle. I hope this battle carries on and claims hakimullah, we will have to wait and see what Bahawal Khan the new leader of the mullah nazir faction does.

  • Barry Larking says:

    In another development a suspected jihadist terrorist organiser has been “deported” to the U.S.A. to face trial:
    “Abid Naseer has been described by a High Court judge as an “al-Qaeda operative” who “poses a serious threat to the national security of the UK”.
    Well, it’s never stopped living here at public expense until now.
    See the B.B.C. web site for more information.
    Seems they couldn’t either put him on trial or deport him to Pakistan (because he’s from there and they knock people about … or let them go) so the U.S.A. and U.K. have dreamed something up. Anyway, he’s yours now.
    Happy New Year!

  • JRP says:

    And speaking of Zawahiri, what are the best guesses as to why we have been unable to nail him? I suspect we have a good idea as to his location and that location is simply one where he is untouchable for diplomatic and collateral damage reasons. If I had to guess I would guess that he is ensconced in the heart of a major Pakistani city protected directly by Pakistani security and intelligence branch people and shielded by the close proximity of mosques, schools, a hospital, Pak Govt buildings, etc. A place where we cannot land helos or come ashore from the sea.

  • Doug Ratcliffe says:

    Yeah and I guess there are “good” child molesters out there too.

  • Charles says:

    Judging by the attempted assassination attempt on Nazir and the recent photo op of a couple still living Taliban–I think it safe to say that Mullah Nazir had too many enemies with easy access to US tracking devices.

  • Cordell says:

    Do you think Pakistan’s military may have given the US approval of this strike after the recent abduction and killing of 20+ Pakistani border guards? After just mending US-Pakistan relations just months ago to resume military convoys and drone strikes, one would think that the US would be cautious when attacking the leader of what Pakistanis considered “good” Taliban.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Cordell, We’ve targeted Nazir in the past. If the Paks wanted him off the battlefield, they could easily pick him up. I’m told that this, like previous strikes against Nazir and his cadre, was not a Pak approved strike and will likely hurt relations. I hope to write on this more tonite or tomorrow.

  • Shade says:

    I was wondering about Pakistan’s involvement in Mullah Nazir’s targeting, especially considering their recent interest in peace talks with Hakimullah Mehsud.
    I’m also curious about Nazir’s reportedly named replacement at his funeral, Salahuddin Ayubi. Any info on this guy?

  • Andrew says:

    Why should we give a crap about what the Pakistanis want (especially when it comes to protecting so-called “good Taliban”… everyone knows the only good Talib is a dead Talib)? We give Pakistan billions in aid every year, so they can do what? At best, turn a blind-eye towards extremist terrorists groups in their midst who attack Americans, Afghans and Indians and at worst, actively support and shelter them. The US should be cautious when the lives of US soldiers are at stake? Give me a break!

  • Mr T says:

    If we asked the Paks to approve this strike, Nazir would not have been in the vehicle.
    Maybe it was the Prius that gave him away.

  • JT says:

    The Pakistani government did not support the strike? Good. It’s about time the Pak distinctions of good and bad Taliban are erased completely from any recognition by the US.

  • wallbangr says:

    Turnabout is fair play. It’s not as if the Paks haven’t stuck it to the Americans a time or two. Quite the contrary, which is why most folks who follow the area are less than apologetic when Pak feelings get hurt. This guy targets Americans and is thus fair game, even if that is inconvenient for the Paks. At least, that’s my take on the situation. I’m sure the poor SOB from State who has to deal with the Paks on other issues doesn’t have the same luxury of seeing things so black and white. All the same, given the usual behind-the-scenes maneuvering and duplicity by the Paks, they shouldn’t be in a position to gripe about having to swallow a bit of their own medicine. The rifts with our favorite “frienemy” are the price of doing business and this is a victory for the US and NATO. How this shakes out with the other friends and enemies of the Pak state in the tribal areas should be interesting. I personally hope it makes the Paks sweat just a little. They knew the risks. If not a pred strike, it could have easily been another local thug looking to expand territory and influence that took this guy out. Until the paks drop the intellectual dishonesty in their dealings with Islamist extremists in their midst, they are going to continue to have blowback like this whether the US hastens it or not

  • EDDIED. says:

    Good shooting!
    This New Year has already brought good news.
    Now I hope to read the obit. of the Mehsuds in the very near future.
    Hoping to hear more good news about more of the Good Taliban. lol!

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    I’m curious to how the Waziris view this hit on Nazir. Also curious as to the crossborder implications in the Shkin area will be as a result. I think it won’t be long before the TTP try to make a move in the Angoorada and Wana areas. Who is the going to be the next strongman that replaces Nazir? Is the PAKMIL issueing any public statements or moving troops to the area in anticipation of the TTP moving back in?

  • altaf ur rehman says:

    people of pakistan love molvi nazir because he was the main piller against the pak enemiese and TTP on the area of pak afghan border they considered this is a ttp and CIA joint conducted operation ,ttp is already fighting a proxy and stretigic war against pak army,pakistan will have to take counter measure against such kind of bloody acts , kiling of molvi nazir is direct attack on pakistani interests in the region,

  • Student says:

    Dear all,
    I am not sure that Mule nazir is killed by
    US drone attack, he was already had a strong memberships with pakistani ISI.
    This was attack of ISI.

  • JT says:

    So who is the next most valuable target? Hucky?

  • Witch Doctor says:

    @ Mr.Nobody:
    Sir, as you have noticed that the Angoorada and Wana areas
    are always up for grabs, you need to ask who has the balls and the bullets to move in, PAK MIL is probably a good guess, but it will be done by Lashkar-e-Proxy (via PAK MIL).
    Nice observation.

  • clare says:

    dear @EEDIED i don’t think it will stop them, maybe will make more dangerous


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