A US drone strike two days ago killed a “key” local Taliban commander who was preparing to lead a group of fighters into Afghanistan, according to the Pakistani press. The drone strike has drawn the ire of newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been sympathetic to the Taliban in the past and seeks to negotiate with the terror group.
The June 7 drone strike in the Shawal area of North Waziristan killed a “key Pakistani Taliban commander” who was known as Mutaqi and Bahadar Khan, according to Dawn. The compound where Muqati and his followers were staying was struck “when a pick-up truck arrived from the bordering area of Afghanistan.” Six fighters are thought to have been killed in the strike.
Mutaqi and his fighters “were planning to cross over into Afghanistan via Pash Ziarat valley, a strategic corridor linking the South and North Waziristan Agency and considered a gateway to Afghanistan,” Pakistani intelligence officials told the news agency.
The Obama administration has asserted that the CIA-operated drones are no longer conducting “signature strikes” that target groups of fighters. Instead, the administration has claimed that the strikes are directed only at terrorists who present an “imminent threat” of attacking US soil.
Friday’s drone strike sparked a harsh rebuke from Prime Minister Sharif. Yesterday, the Pakistani Foreign Office summoned the US Charge d’Affaires and issued a demarche.
“It was conveyed to the US [Charge d’ Affaires] that the Government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Foreign Office noted in a press release. “The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized.”
The US has conducted two drone strikes since Sharif’s party won the parliamentary election in mid-May. Waliur Rehman, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, a faction that fights the Pakistani government, was killed in a drone strike on May 29. Before his death, Waliur Rehman had said the Taliban is “attached” to al Qaeda, and acknowledged that his forces are at war with the Pakistani government.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.