The US killed 11 members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in an airstrike in the eastern province of Nangarhar yesterday. The strike is the fifth that has targeted Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan fighters and leaders operating inside Afghanistan since the last week of November.
Four members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and seven Afghan Taliban fighters were killed in the “drone strike” that targeted a pickup truck, Mahlem Mashuq, the governor of Shirzad district in Nangarhar, told Reuters.
The airstrike, which could have been carried out by the remotely piloted Predators or Reapers, or a variety of strike aircraft that operate in Afghanistan, was confirmed by Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, the spokesman for police forces in Nangarhar. At least one of the jihadists killed in the attack was an important commander, Mashriqiwal told Khaama Press. He did not indicate if the commander was a member of the Afghan or Pakistani branch of the Taliban.
Yesterday’s strike took place as a suicide assault team from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan attacked a high school in Peshawar and killed everyone in their path. Officials stated that 132 students and nine teachers were killed during the rampage. The Afghan Taliban released an official statement condemning the attack while not mentioning the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan by name. [See LWJ reports, Pakistani Taliban assaults military high school in Peshawar and Afghan Taliban releases statement condemning attack on Pakistani school.]
Yesterday’s airstrike in Nangarhar is the fifth since Nov. 24 that has targeted Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan fighters and leaders operating in eastern Afghanistan, and the fourth in Nangarhar. On Nov. 24, the US targeted Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in the Nazyan district. Fazlullah was not killed. On Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, the US attacked the Pakistani Taliban group in the Shirzad and Lal Pur districts. [See LWJ report, US airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan target Pakistani Taliban.] On Dec. 7, the US launched another airstrike in the Shigal district of Kunar province.
The US has targeted Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan fighters and commanders operating inside Afghanistan over the past several years, but the strikes have been infrequent. The most high-profile airstrike took place on Aug. 24, 2012, when the US killed Mullah Dadullah (a.k.a. Maulana Mohammad Jamal), his deputy Shakir, and 10 Taliban fighters in an airstrike in Kunar’s Shigal district. [See LWJ report, Bajaur Taliban leader, deputy killed in airstrike in eastern Afghanistan.]
The US killed Baitullah and Hakeemullah Mehsud, the previous two emirs of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in drone strikes in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Baitullah, the group’s founder, was killed in August 2009, and Hakeemullah, who organized the Times Square bomb plot, was killed in November 2013.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which has been weakened of late due to internal divisions and defections, has had a presence in eastern Afghanistan since the organization was founded in late 2006. The jihadist group, which is closely allied with al Qaeda and has sworn allegiance to Mullah Omar, the emir of the Afghan Taliban, has waged jihad on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has increased its footprint in eastern Afghanistan recently due to Pakistani military operations that have targeted its strongholds over the border in North Waziristan.