Pakistan condemns drone strike that targeted ‘good Taliban’ and foreign fighters

The Pakistani government condemned a US airstrike in North Waziristan that is reported to have killed members of two Taliban groups favored by the Pakistani establishment. The attack also killed several “foreign militants,” a term often used to describe members of al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Today’s strike, which was carried out by CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or Reapers, took place in the village of Garga in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in a press release.

Two missiles were fired at a compound in the village, killing eight people and wounding several others, The Express Tribune reported. According to the report, “militants loyal to the warlord [Hafiz] Gul Bahadar and the feared Haqqani Network operate in the area, as well as foreign Uzbek fighters.” The Uzbeks are likely members of the al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The identities of those killed in the strike have not been disclosed. No senior Taliban, Haqqani Network, or Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders or operatives are reported to have been killed in the operation.

The Shawal Valley, which spans both North and South Waziristan, is a known haven for al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region. A host of Taliban, Pakistani, and foreign terrorist groups gather in the Shawal Valley and then enter Afghanistan to fight US, NATO, and Afghan government forces.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the government “condemns [the] US drone strike in North Waziristan” and “regards such strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and demands their immediate cessation.”

The Pakistani government routinely denounces US airstrikes as “a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” even though it is known that the government has given the US permission to launch operations against al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan.

The Pakistani government typically objects to strikes that target the so-called “good Taliban” such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group. These Taliban factions do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state, but do support jihadist groups that wage war on the government and shelter foreign terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. The so-called good Taliban also support and wage jihad in Afghanistan and India. [See Threat Matrix reports, Pakistan condemns drone strike that targeted ‘good Taliban, and Good Taliban are not our problem, adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister says.]

Today’s strike took place just three days after the Haqqani Network launched a mass-casualty suicide attack in Afghanistan’s Paktika province that killed a local police commander and more than 50 civilians at a soccer match. US officials also told The Long War Journal that the Haqqani Network was responsible for an IED attack that killed two US soldiers in Kabul the next day. [See LWJ report, Haqqani Network launched suicide attack at soccer game, Afghan intel claims.]

The US has targeted the Haqqani Network in other recent drone strikes in Pakistan. On Oct. 30, Abdullah Haqqani, who is said to have directed suicide operations in Afghanistan for the Haqqani Network, was reported to have been killed in an airstrike in the Birmal area of South Waziristan.

The US has launched 20 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year. Four of those strikes have taken place in the Shawal Valley, and nine more in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, which is also an al Qaeda and jihadist hub in the tribal agency.

All 20 attacks have taken place since June 11. The US drone program in Pakistan was put on hold from the end of December 2013 up until June 11, 2014, as the Pakistani government attempted to negotiate a peace deal with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an al Qaeda-linked group that wages jihad in Afghanistan and seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state.

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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