US launches first drone strike in Pakistan in 6 weeks

The US killed seven people in the first drone strike in Pakistan in six weeks. The attack took place in an area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, and is rumored to have killed the deputy emir for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Chashma, which is just outside of Miramshah, the main town in the tribal agency, according to Reuters.

Seven people were killed in the strike and several more were wounded. It is unclear, however, if those killed were civilians or jihadists allied with the Taliban, al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups known to shelter in the area.

Unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that Waliur Rehman, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in South Waziristan and deputy to emir Hakeemullah Mehsud, was killed in the strike. Additionally, an aide known as Fakhar-ul-Islam is said to have been killed in the strike along with “two unknown Uzbek nationals,” according to CNN.

The Pakistani government has not officially stated that Rehman was killed. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has neither confirmed nor denied reports of his death.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm or deny that Rehman was killed, but did say they were aware of reports of his death. One official said that Rehman is on the CIA’s kill list and has been targeted in the past.

The strike took place in an area of North Waziristan that is administered by the Haqqani Network, the al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan and is based in North Waziristan.

The strike is the first in Pakistan since April 17, when US drones targeted a compound in the neighboring tribal agency of South Waziristan.

The program was put on hold for “political considerations,” a US intelligence official involved in the strikes in Pakistan told The Long War Journal several weeks ago. Pakistan held parliamentary elections on May 11, and the chiefs of the two leading parties in the polls, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, have been vocal opponents of the US program. Both candidates have also favored negotiations with the al Qaeda-affiliated Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, one of several Taliban factions operating in Pakistan.

Today’s strike is the first since President Barack Obama’s speech last week that outlined a reduced US counterterrorism role in the world. Obama said that the drones, which are currently operated by the CIA, will eventually be turned over to the military, and that the pace of the strikes will be reduced. Obama claimed that al Qaeda has been sufficiently attritted, despite the fact that the terrorist organization has expanded its operations in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, and in North and West Africa.

The US has launched 14 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.

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 been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 339 strikes recorded since 2004, 322, 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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  • hibeam says:

    Was he read his Miranda rights?

  • mike merlo says:

    Its about time. It would appear that Nawaz Sharif is comfortable with the continuance of ‘activities’ condoned by his predecessors. So this begs the question: how long before Sharif is targeted for assassination?

  • Eric says:

    Interesting development, as I believe this will cut the PA and ISI’s influence down in Quetta at the critical time in the fighting season. There is a lot of money and opium trafficking territory up for grabs with these guys out of the picture. With this much at stake, I wonder also if Ayman Al Zawahiri will be forced out of hiding in the ensuing power struggles this could touch off.
    Now is the time to catch Hakeemullah and Siraj. They will be on the move frequently, trying to keep up support for the fight in Afghanistan, and sort out who is boss of what.

  • gitsum says:

    YEAH! No controversy here, case of beer for the drone pilots. Well done, how I like meat cooked.

  • Nolan says:

    Agreed, Rewards for Justice and FBI sites are good indicators of deaths. However, it may be a long time for the name to be removed. Ahmed Mohamed Hamed Ali and Qari Mohamed Zafar were both killed in 2010, yet their names weren’t removed until May of last year. So if Waliur Rahman Mehsud is not immediately removed it does not mean he’s not dead. Also, I just have to comment that this strike is probably indicative of the “future” of counter terrorism as has been discussed repeatedly of late. Less signature strikes, ,more personality strikes with increasingly less frequency. As the President stated, with our soldiers being withdrawn, the need for the large number of strikes will be decreased. However, we will still target major al-Qaida, Taliban, Haqqani, etc leaders, their training camps, headquarters, etc. Targeting those who are wanted, and those who would lead a resurgence of militant efforts in the region with a focus on attacking Western interests. In fact, even though I know I will be jumped for saying this, I have to say I believe the Obama Administration’s handling of our nation’s counter terrorism efforts has been absolutely superb. Also, the threat is constantly evolving, therefore our efforts can’t remain in a stagnant 2001 form and we must evolve new policies and methods. I would also say that in his speech the President directly referenced the need to focus on al-Qaida’s franchises, exemplified by AQAP, as they have spread globally. Therefore, I don’t believe those group’s will be allowed to “slip through the cracks.” It goes beyond al-Qaida and Taliban threats as well of course. I do have a point of contention with the CIA relinquishing control of the drones to the Pentagon. That’s just my opinion though. I normally always agree with your thoughts Bill, but I just thought I’d mention this point. I just don’t see where the Administration is going to lose focus on counter terrorism.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    It’s always good when another bad guy bites it. But it’s been, what, four or five months since we killed the last big fish (Mullah Nazir)? This kind of pacing is atrocious, considering there are still so many of these guys left. And unfortunately it’s more likely to slow down even more rather than pick up now that we’re pretending we’ve won and are bailing out of Afghanistan.
    Maybe one day, five or ten years down the road, we’ll get Zawahiri or even Mullah Omar. Maybe.

  • Viv says:

    The below is an excerpt from the BBC’s Ilyas Khan. Terrific Analysis and in an entirely new perspective. As with Siraj and Jalal Haqqani, you can safely bet that they both will be taken out when the last American convoy leaves Khorasan….
    While the Taliban faction Waliur Rehman helped lead is better known for attacks against Pakistani targets, his death would be likely to benefit the Americans and the Afghans more than the Pakistanis.
    Waliur Rehman called Pakistan’s constitution and democracy un-Islamic, and its leaders agents of the West. But within the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), he was known as someone who opposed attacks in Pakistan and wanted the group to have greater focus on Afghanistan – an idea not shared by TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
    This was partly due to the fact that Waliur Rehman remained close to Pakistan’s moderate religious party, the JUI-F, which believes in electoral process and has considerable following in the Pakistani tribal areas. By contrast, the remaining TTP leadership is more closely linked to al-Qaeda and hardline groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
    Within the TTP, Waliur Rehman led a faction that had close links with the Haqqani network,a militant group with its bases in North Waziristan and its operations in Afghanistan. The TTP foot-soldiers who fell under his command were mostly sent to fight in Afghanistan. This may be a reason why he was targeted by the Americans.


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