US drones kill 4 ‘militants’ in North Waziristan strike

The US killed four “militants” in a drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan late last night. The strike is the first in Pakistan in a month.

The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Qutab Khel near Miramshah in North Waziristan just after midnight, according to Dawn. Several of the unmanned strike aircraft were seen hovering over the compound before and after the strike.

The target of the latest strike in Pakistan was not revealed, and no senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied jihadist commanders have been reported killed at this time. Pakistani officials told Dawn that Afghans were thought to be among those killed.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “strongly” condemned the strike and said it was “a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Pakistani government described the attack in North Waziristan as “counter-productive,” despite the fact that the last two leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians and security personnel, have been killed in drone strikes.

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 US has stepped up its targeting of the Haqqani Network this year. Since the beginning of September, two top Haqqani Network leaders, Mullah Sangeen Zadran and Maulvi Ahmed Jan, have been killed in strikes in North Waziristan.

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.

Today’s strike is the first recorded in Pakistan this month. Last month, the US conducted three airstrikes in North Waziristan, and killed two top jihadist leaders. On Nov. 1, the US killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in an attack in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. The next strike, on Nov. 21, killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top leader in the Haqqani Network, and two other Haqqani Network senior commanders. And the last strike, on Nov. 28, is said to have killed a Pakistani from Punjab province who was involved in terror attacks inside Pakistan.

The last four strikes have taken place in areas administered by the Haqqani Network.

The strike near Miramshah today took place days after the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Ansar al Mujahideen clashed with Pakistani troops in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. The jihadist groups have targeted Pakistani security forces in suicide and IED attacks. The groups have claimed that the attacks were carried out to punish the troops for cooperating with the US in drone strikes that have killed top Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders. [See LWJ, Ansarul Mujahideen kills 4 Pakistani troops in North Waziristan, and Pakistani military, Taliban clash in North Waziristan after suicide attack].

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

The vast majority of the US drone strikes have taken place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. Of the 354 strikes since 2004, 253 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 2,088 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 28 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 each year since the program’s 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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  • Jeff Clarke says:

    The drones are a great method for taking out a selected enemy in those regions infested by fundamentalist Muslim militants. It is most unfortunate when civilians also suffer but then the brave warriors of Islam do hide in civilian inhabited areas. I await condemnation of the militants by the human rights people on the basis that the former have no reservations at all when it comes to the murder of civilians, including other Muslims.

  • dfg says:

    Only time will correct u that ISI is not loyal to Haqqani … hell ISI is not even loyal to Pakistan. Its a SHIA infested dept with loyalties only with IRAN .. a clear foe to this sunni nation. Thing is … at some point in time perhaps because of U.S pressure Pak Military was under sunni control but ISI was ‘awarded’ to iranis/shias. Army & ISI dont cross into each other’s jurisdictions (think FBI and CIA in movies) if i say Army is bound not interfere ISI… is more precise. As War is finishing .. Iran is clearly seeing its trail going under the heel/foot of Taliban so ISI is leaking Taliban’s coordinates. Note/Google that Shuja Pasha was a shia and Musharaf family is full of Qadianis both compatible…. From 2000 to 2011+ Musharaf and ShujaPasha both filled shias in ISI from top to bottom.. The new ISI chief Zaheer Ul Islam is sunni but what is done in those 10years will take time to cleans ISI. Also note/google/youtube that the army platoons getting beating at hands of Mujahideen are shia… Sunni families had stopped their children in army to fight there despite threats of court marshal… The real fighting force in Army has no hatred with Taliban.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    The US will still use the drones against terrorists in Pakistan in 2014, even though they will never use them in Syria against islamic terrorists who have captured territory. But as long the US use drones against the Pakistanis, then it would be good for the region, because the terrorists will then strike more against the Pakistanis, who the Pakistani army will then divert their resources more against the Pakistani Taliban to protect their ISI and army forces, rather than spending more resources against India via their Lashkar-e-Toiba and other ISI sponsored lackeys. Notice the decline of islamic terrorism in India and the sudden rise of islamic terrorism in Pakistan. It’s called blowback for the Pakistanis and their evil ISI.

  • Jake says:

    Ill take that the ISI is loyal to Iran, not loyal to Pakistan, and chock full of Shia (25% of the population) with a large grain of salt.

  • dfg says:

    Also to add/aid my point if u do little research on housing societies in Pakistan, you will find that where ever there is Intelligence related building the surroundings are allotted to shia population and if u say how will i know they are shia around this building .. lemme tell u that their will not be mosque around .. instead there will be a big “maam-bara” (sunnis dont use correct spells deliberately for this infidel’s worship place) or 2-3 small baras there.
    @Birbal … U.S is also NOT using drones in iraq … the logic is different to yours… its because drone’s (predator/reaper) combat radius is very small.. operating a global-hawk would make little sense even if that is brought into picture. So for predators/reapers u’ll need a drone base inside Iraq … hell U.S could/can not keep its green zone safe … let alone maintaining drone bases. same applies to Syria … if Asad allows drone base .. U.S is not interested and Mujahideen are already winning so they dont want U.S to dance between and handover a hefty bill of expenses when Mujahideen comes into power.

  • dfg says:

    Thank you for understanding my point.
    And if i may further add to my points … u will note that when Mushraf was thrown down in 2008… the govt we got was a package under sham elections a staunch shia gang (zardari, bilawal, Pasha[running his term]) was imposed as per plan. u r very right in very-big-grain-of-salt term. shias are 20-30 million of 180+ million population so its 10%-15% max.
    I read LWJ often and keenly but dont contribute much … people usually commenting are like good for commenting if F-15 is better than Rafael or Typhoon but in connecting strands/logics of Jihad very few ppl here have knowledge.

  • Al says:

    Are the various factions just loyal to those perceived to be winning at time, or be the eventual winners. An aside: My Dad talks of his WW-II experience in N. Africa, and he said never, ever, trust them. A “friend” by day will murder you at night, he thought.


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