US drones kill 4 ‘militants’ in Pakistan

The US killed four “militants” in a drone strike in the terrorist hub of Datta Khel in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike today is the first reported by the US in Pakistan in 11 days.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in Datta Khel earlier today. Four “militants” were killed in the strike, according to Dawn.

The exact target of the strike was not disclosed, but “intelligence reports said that those killed are suspected militants and their harborers,” Dawn reported. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders or operatives are reported to have been killed.

Today’s strike is just the second this month. The last strike, which also occurred in Datta Khel, took place on March 10. In that airstrike, two “militants” were said to have been killed while riding horseback. The US has launched just 11 drone strikes in Pakistan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since the peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.

Datta Khel area is a terrorist hub

The Datta Khel area, where today’s strike took place, 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.

Datta Khel is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. While Bahadar administers the region, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadist groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, is known to operate a command center in Datta Khel. Some of al Qaeda’s top leaders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, have been killed in drone strikes in Datta Khel.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups 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 Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan in protest of US drone strikes.

Bahadar and the Taliban maintain a “peace agreement” with the Pakistani military that allows him to run a state within a state in the remote tribal agency. Bahadar and his commanders have set up a parallel administration, complete with courts, recruiting centers, prisons, training camps, and the ability to levy taxes.

The peace agreement allows North Waziristan to serve as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and nonaligned Taliban groups, as well as the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.

Bahadar wields considerable power in North Waziristan. In July 2011, a spokesman for Bahadar claimed that there were no “militants” in North Waziristan and that Bahadar’s Taliban faction has lived up to the terms of its peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Bahadar’s Taliban subgroup is a member of the Shura-e-Murakeba, an al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-brokered alliance that includes the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the Mullah Nazir Group in South Waziristan.

In June 2012, Bahadar suspended polio vaccination programs in North Waziristan in protest against the US drone strikes in North Waziristan. Bahadar has objected to the US drone strikes in the past. On Nov. 12, 2011, Bahadar suspended meetings with the government and threatened to attack the Pakistani state if it continued to allow the US to conduct attacks in areas under his control.

The US has conducted numerous airstrikes against terrorist targets in areas under Bahadar’s control. Of the 336 drone strikes that have taken place in Pakistan’s tribal areas, 94 of the strikes, or 28 percent, have occurred in areas directly under the control of Bahadar. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013, for information on US airstrikes.]

The US has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have mostly been confined to a small kill box consisting of North and South Waziristan. Of the 336 strikes recorded since 2004, 319, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.

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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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I think the drones are a wonderful thing in disrupting terrorist plans, but unfortunately they don’t get rid of the mosquito nest. The unfortunate reality is that Pakistan’s ISI are harbouring these islamic terrorists and have no intention in getting rid of their “good” taliban, who are allied with Al Qaeda. If the Pakistanis had a determination to destroy the Taliban bases, we wouldn’t have problems of islamic terrorism, such as attacks on civilians, NATO/Afghan Army and Police in Afghanistan.

  • Devendra says:


  • gb says:

    One of the puzzling aspects of the drone campaign is that many of the strike take place in the same region /villages over and over again. Why not hit them real hard with a legit airstrike? Dropping the hammer on some of these terror havens will at least get them moving out in the open.

  • mike merlo says:

    “Fortress Waziristan” = a collection of Fiefdom’s modeled after a Feudal System. Who’d ah ever thought that a centuries old infrastructure would flourish in today’s world. It is now more apparent than ever that Pakistan will never, at least not in the foreseeable future, be able to ‘fold’ FATA & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into a Pakistan peacefully organized around a Government based on Democracy & ‘Republican’ principles. What a mess

  • Mr T says:

    “intelligence reports said that those killed are suspected militants and their harborers,”
    You mean like the country of Pakistan?

  • Gerald says:

    Way to go fellas. Keep ’em Guessing!!

  • Moose says:

    @mike merlo
    “It is now more apparent than ever that Pakistan will never, at least not in the foreseeable future, be able to ‘fold’ FATA & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into a Pakistan peacefully organized around a Government based on Democracy & ‘Republican’ principles. What a mess”
    Hey Mike,

  • Steve m says:

    Any update on the drone strike that took out some on horseback a few weeks ago? Did we ever find out who was targeted?

  • mike merlo says:

    this coming from a person who’s chosen Bullwinkle as his moniker

  • Tim says:

    I wonder how the military get their intelligence on these strikes? Given they know how murky Aghan politics is and they are in the midst of that, and how they were used by one faction against another often enough there. Then how do they know their intelligence is reliable just across the border. The answer is they probably don’t. Maybe Afghan intelligence is helping them but they probably use the US to settle old scores there too. So how much more accurate are the drones? I wonder if anyone really knows.


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