US drones strike in Pakistan, kill 3 ‘militants’

The US killed three unidentified “militants” in a drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan yesterday. The strike is the third in Pakistan this month; the previous two attacks killed senior leaders in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Haqqani Network.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a compound in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan last night, according to Dawn. Several strike aircraft were seen hovering over the compound before the strike.

The target of yesterday’s strike was not revealed, and no senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied jihadist commanders have been reported killed at this time. The strike is said to have killed “a Pakistani citizen from Punjab Province” but his identity was not disclosed, The New York Times reported. According to AFP, the Punjabi Taliban was the target of the attack, and an operative known as Aslam or Yaseem, who was involved in the attack on the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi in May 2011, was killed.

The Punjabi Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab, is led by Asmatullah Muawiya, who also serves as a commander of one of several a Qaeda military formations [see LWJ report, Bin Laden docs hint at large al Qaeda presence in Pakistan].

The attack took place in an area under the control of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban faction that operates in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, and is based in North Waziristan in Pakistan. The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and is supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the operational commander of the Haqqani Network and leads the Miramshah Shura, one of four major Taliban regional councils. Siraj is also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

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 the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar’s fighters are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s strike is the second reported in Pakistan since Nov. 1, when the drones killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in an attack in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. The last strike, on Nov. 21, killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top leader in the Haqqani Network, and two other senior commanders.

The vast majority of the US drone strikes have taken place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. Of the 353 strikes since 2004, 252 have hit targets in North Waziristan, and 83 have hit targets in South Waziristan. In the other tribal areas, there have been three strikes in Bajaur, two in Arakzai, four in Kurram, and five in Khyber. Four more strikes have taken place outside of the tribal areas; three were in Bannu and one more was in Hangu.

The drone strikes are controversial; in October, groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International formally accused the US of indiscriminately killing civilians in strikes in both Pakistan and Yemen. But at the end of October, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence released a report stating that 67 civilians have been killed in drone strikes since the beginning of 2009, and claimed that no civilians have been killed since the beginning of 2012.

The Long War Journal has recorded, based on Pakistani press reports, that at least 2,082 jihadists from al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of terror groups operating in North and South Waziristan have been killed in strikes since the beginning of 2009, including some of al Qaeda’s top leaders. There have also been 105 reported civilian deaths in drone strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with 18 civilians killed since the beginning of 2012. Civilian casualties are difficult to assess as the strikes take place in areas under Taliban control; the figure may be higher than 105.

The US has launched 27 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, but al Qaeda and allied groups are known to have an extensive network throughout all of Pakistan.

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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  • JT says:

    I am thankful for many things. Among those things are that the US continues its fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. I wish only that there were a more robust strategy in addition to the whack-a-terrorist tactic.
    The tactic is very effectiive, but is not a strategy, as mentioned here and in other news and commentary outlets many times. When will it sink in to those who make the decisions? . . . .

  • Devendra says:

    Great Job, Drones. Keep it up. Keep killing these maggots.

  • popseal says:

    Muslim jihadists must not be very smart. They keep being blown up. Hey guys, fill the skies with those deadly toys.

  • The 7th paragraph contains an error.
    Maulvi Ahmed Jan was killed in the Nov. 21 air strike, not Nasiruddin Haqqani who was killed earlier this month in Islamabad by motorcycle gunmen, presumably from a rival faction.

  • C-Low says:

    Unless you are prepared to go Roman and go across the Muslim world very possibly having to outlaw Islam itself, cutting the grass it is the best option we have.
    The drones are great at cutting the grass and we should be telling all the ME and muslim world that if they cannot keep their radicals under control then the drone will come and do it for them. Yes the “innocents” around the Jihadis who are more often than not friends & family will be killed in the process. We should demand that their nations do what the rest of the civilized world does and police its own citizens. Demand they handle their own business.

  • Mirza Charoc, le Roi de Herat says:

    Looks like we got them all dazed, confused and everything – hope we manage to keep our intel sources alive and uncompromised, which is not always easy when dramatically ramping up the accuracy and success of these attacks, as we have of late.
    I am real concerned about Talib counter-espionage wising up to those working with us, with all these too public series of successes without failures.
    This aspect of the long war is best fought in the dark, throwing in some collateral damage and a few mis-directed attacks to confuse and cloak our objectives and our intel, but appears as though the ‘Camp Chapman suicide attack’ amateur hour keeps on keeping on in spook-land.
    On an entirely different note:
    Former Osama bin Laden neighbor and creator of current Pakilander counter-insurgency doctrine, ‘Savior of Swat’ Gen. Raheel Sharif is the new military boss over in Islamabad.
    Since he was supposedly instrumental in evicting the Taliban from Swat, or at least neutralizing them somewhat, this may be a good cop – bad cop play, with the civilians under Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif holding a carrot to the TTP to come talk, and the army under Raheel Sharif (no relation) wielding the stick.
    It could also be Nawaz’ way of signaling the end of the Kayani doctrine, created by Raheel’s predecessor Gen. Kayani, requiring the US to be out of Afghanland, among other key points.
    Raheel’s appointment may result in some easing of relations between the U.S. and the Pak military, especially since he is not tainted by having held any command within the ISI.
    Of course, how this all pans out is TBD, at least for now.

  • DCWS says:

    Right now, the only way to rid extremism is keep shaving off the top tier of these nuisance. The US has initiated strategy in many ways but many Pakistanis and Afghans are deep in their indoctrination. At the moment its difficult to level on a strategy. These people are not interested in development but only wanting to insist a theocratic way of life for the world. So the drones have to keep shaving off extremism.

  • chris says:

    All for the drone war , it keeps the bad guys nervous, but it sure is giving the radical pols in Pakistan fodder . Check out DAWN newspaper in Pakistan. Its amazing the ignoring Suicide bombers that kill 40 and then condemning a drone that kills three. I wonder what is the tipping point ? Either a new govt. there or us cutting off Aid as they cut off Nato convoys.
    Keep Droning

  • Bill S. says:

    I don’t think there is any worry that drone warfare will be able to continue in Pakistan. To me Pakistan seems a number of factions struggling for control of the country. The only faction with the ability to stop drone attacks, by shooting them down, does nothing about it. This is the government. While shedding copious crocodile tears about drone attacks, it’s obvious to everyone that the Pakistani government, at least the factions that controls the air force, is firmly behind the drone attacks. Reapers and Predators only fly at about 110 mph, or the speed of a WWI fighter plane. Nor do they reach great altitude. They could be shot down from a converted crop duster, if anyone took the mind to. Indeed, I’m a bit surprised that the Taliban has not yet tried.

  • blert says:

    I find it hard to believe that the Haqqani leadership is easily replaced. Certainly fresh talent can be promoted, but Mesud et. al. were local super stars.
    While talent can be brought in from afar, nothing can beat local. The fanatics live by blood feuds and blood bonds.
    This recent flow of events may well be keyed to Kayani’s impending departure. It would not shock me to discover that the outgoing general cleared the deck so that the new man could operate with a clean slate, unsullied hands.
    This would permit Islamabad to receive additional funding from America. Kayani would absorb institutional guilt.

  • Stephanie says:

    The issue I have with what you said is that the “friends and family” who you cavalierly write off may be small children, who did not choose their parents and should not be punished for their parents’ sins. This is one reason why I’m not a huge fan of drones, though I recognize sometimes it’s a situation of “well, what are you going to do, then?” I mean, did Ayman Al Zawahiri’s 4 yr old daughter with Down’s Syndrome seriously deserve to die in a US airstrike? It’s also a huge propaganda issue for the Islamic world and you can bet whenever non-combatants die in drone attacks they jump on that and exploit it for the propaganda war. This just makes them angrier.

  • bloggerasad says:

    It seems pretty simple to me. If you don’t want civilians to be killed take the dresses off and put on a uniform. Come out and fight like men and stop hiding behind the women and children. gastric reflux

  • g says:

    You are correct. The coverage in Dawn is infuriating. It starts to make more sense once you realize that they are not unbiased. For example, if you comment on an article to ask why Pakistanis care more about drone casualties vs. Taliban casualties, you will see that it does not get published.

  • Tras says:

    Statistics presented at the end are rather pessimistic – only two jihadists elliminated per day on average, with quite a number of civilian casualties. Honestly, this kind of campaign is not even slowing down the growth of al Qaeda…

  • RKNJ says:

    If we replace ‘drone’ with any of the following in your comment, we will be left with basically the same thing:
    (i) Air to ground missiles
    (ii) A Rangers surgical strike team
    (iii) An all out attack by a combined American-Pakistani ground forces

  • Arjuna says:

    Stephanie, your concern for innocent life is touching, and you make a valid point re them getting angrier when we kill their friends and family members. So we should end signature strikes and try always to hit them when they are not with women and children, something we are already doing. But not to take a shot at Zawahiri because he’s with his wife and daughter would be criminally stupid. We were late in Damadola in ’06 and missed him, sorry about daughter, but her mother married a terrorist and essentially signed her death warrant. Z has not forgotten and will try eventually to make an attempt for Sasha and Melia (or Chelsea), by something focused or by making a hash of the whole NCR. It’s psych 101. You kill someone’s family, they are highly likely to come after yours. Talionic justice is a terrible cycle, but a live Zawahiri cannot be countenanced. Watch the skies guys!

  • Arjuna says:

    This Hassan is a very brave man, doing a very important job. I’ll take his word for it (as well as that of the recent internal report to the Paqi senate which found only a 4% innocent kill ratio) “From my own experience on the ground, I can say that yes, there are civilian casualties, and unfortunately they include women and children. But they make up a very small share of the total. I have no concrete figures. Does anyone seriously believe that America would wager a costly, politically sensitive war in Pakistan to kill civilians? Most of the victims are enemies of the United States and enemies of Pakistan.” Source: //

  • Dave says:

    Stephanie: I believe that most Americans share your concern for civilian casualties. I hope that most Americans understand that the growth of militant Islam is an imminent and direct threat to our national security. An article in the LWJ on November 22nd noted the shortcomings of drone warfare and solicited more effective strategies. So far, we don’t have any.

  • Mirza Charoc, le Roi de Herat says:

    Innocents? there ARE no steenkin’ innocents – vamanos, muchachos
    What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women…
    Quod erat demonstrandum

  • Dave says:

    Kit: You describe the Speigel Online piece, to which you provide a link, as the best article you have read.
    The article is interesting as an interview with a Pashtun purported to be a CIA intelligence source for the drone war in the Paki tribal autonomous areas.
    The interviewer askes the Pushtun about civilian casualties and includes the source’s response that some such casualties might occur. The article includes 6 photos, the first four showing US drones, the last two showing the carnage resulting from “an explosion” in the Kissa Khwani Market in Peshawar on September 29th.
    The clear implication is that a US drone has caused the civilain casualties in the market. But dozens reports in the Paki press all indiacte that the market carnage was caused by a CAR BOMB. A Paki militant (not clear in what cause) was arrested a month later. I would characterize the Speigel Online article as dishonest, prejudicial, shabby, and an insult to professional journalism.


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