US said to have killed ‘foreigners’ in drone strike in Pakistan

MQ9-Reaper-USAF

The US is reported to have killed at least four jihadists, including “foreigners,” in a drone strike that struck a vehicle in an area of Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan that serves as a safe haven for al Qaeda and other groups that operate in the region.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or Reapers fired two missiles at a vehicle in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, killing four jihadists, Dawn reported. According to The Express Tribune, “there were mostly foreigners among those killed.”

The identities of those killed were not disclosed. “Foreigners” is a term used in the Pakistani press to describe foreign fighters from Arab countries or from regional groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or the Turkistan Islamic Party.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other jihadist organizations have not announced the deaths of any senior leaders, commanders, or operatives.

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

The US has launched 26 drone strikes in the Shawal Valley since September 2010, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the former emir of the Turkistan Islamic Party, was killed in a strike in August 2012; while three al Qaeda military trainers were killed in an attack there in August 2013.

The Pakistani military reportedly is preparing to expand its offensive in North Waziristan, which began in mid-June 2014, into the Shawal Valley. The operation, called Zarb-e-Azb, has focused on foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party, as well as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The Pakistani military has not attacked the Haqqani Network or the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, despite claims to the contrary. These two independent Taliban factions are considered “good Taliban,” as they do not openly advocate attacking the Pakistan state. But the Haqqanis and the Bahadar group, the two most powerful Taliban factions in North Waziristan, shelter and support al Qaeda, IMU, TIP, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (the “bad Taliban”). [See LWJ report, Pakistan launches ‘comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists’ in North Waziristan, and Threat Matrix report, Pakistani forces focus on ‘foreigners’ in North Waziristan operation.]

US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s drone strike in North Waziristan is the seventh reported in Pakistan this year. The last attack, on May 17, targeted a compound in the Shawal Valley. Six jihadists, most of whom are said to have been foreigners or Uzbeks, were reported killed.

Last year, the US launched 24 airstrikes inside Pakistan; 19 of those strikes took place in North Waziristan and four more in South Waziristan. The number of operations has decreased since the program’s peak in 2010, when 117 attacks were recorded by The Long War Journal. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2015.]

The US continues to target and kill al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas despite previous claims by Obama administration officials that al Qaeda has been decimated and only two “core” al Qaeda leaders remain active. So far this year, the US killed Ustad Ahmad Farooq, the deputy emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent; Qari ‘Imran, an AQIS shura member; and Adam Gadahn, an American who served as a top al Qaeda propagandist. An American and an Italian hostage were also killed in the strike that killed Farooq. Additionally, a Taliban commander known as Khawray Mehsud was killed in a drone strike this year.

While the US counterterrorism campaign focuses on al Qaeda’s network in North and South Waziristan, the global jihadist group formed al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, which incorporated elements of regional terrorist organizations. Al Qaeda and its regional branch, AQIS, remains active outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas in the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sindh, where US drones do not operate.

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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5 Comments

  • Devendra says:

    Drones are the only tools available to us to get to these killers. Drone strikes MUST not only be kept up but MUST ALSO BE INCREASED. Pakistan finally has come to realize that the Drone attacks are doing what they should have but don’t. And, that they are beneficial to Pakistan. The evidence is in a muted response or no reaction to these Drone Strikes.
    GO DRONES.

  • James says:

    I am still waiting for AQ to announce and eulogize the death of Gadahn.

    As Mr. Roggio has pointed out concerning the fates of other AQ terrorists, we will know for sure he is dead when AQ tells us that he is dead.

    For the sake of closure for his family, some may wonder why they haven’t done so already.

    You would think they would know that to do so may at least improve their prospects for recruitment.

  • Verneoz says:

    They key is there is no intelligence obtained from these dead butt stabbers. Obama wants to close Gitmo, so he is forced to kill them on the battlefield, instead of interrogate them, and then kill them. Couple this with the easing of sanctions on Iran, and the loss of NSA eavesdropping on the comms of the terrorists, and you have the next 9/11 being laid into the lap of the next US president.

  • Jo Flemings says:

    But the ‘bad guys’ will use hostages as human shields. Drones won’t replace really good snipers, still- the more CIA RC drivers we can get the better.

    Here is where our western glut of stuff plays in our favor- I don’t think they have as many Toys R Us in the middle east as we do in the US. Never thought I’d be thinking, “Yeah, son, of course you can have another/better controller for that game/toy…”

  • mike merlo says:

    great news. For all that’s taking place in the Middle East & adjoining area’s the AfPak Theater is still in ‘play.’ No matter over time ‘we’ shall soon be treated to President Obama’s definition of a “War Of Necessity.”

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