The US targeted jihadists based in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Agencies earlier today in the first recorded drone strike in the country since mid-June. The US is likely to step up strikes in Pakistan after President Trump accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting jihadist groups last month.
The strike was confirmed by Baseer Khan Wazir, the senior government official for the Kurram agency, where today’s strike took place, Reuters reported. According to Wazir, two drones fired a pair of missiles at the home of Maulavi Mohib and killed three people.
The exact target of today’s strike has not been disclosed. The US government has not commented on the operation, and jihadists based in Pakistan have not confirmed the death of any senior or mid-level operatives or leaders.
Today’s airstrike is the first recorded since an attack on June 14, in which the US killed Abu Bakar Haqqani and two close aides in a strike on a compound in the district of Hangu in the northeastern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Abu Bakar was a leader in the Haqqani Network, which is an integral part of the Taliban, and is closely allied with both al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate. The network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is also one of two deputy emirs of the Afghan Taliban.
Haqqani Network leadership has been targeted numerous times during the US drone campaign in Pakistan, which began in 2004 but was ramped up in 2008 under President George W. Bush. The US has killed 13 Haqqani Commanders, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. Among those killed were Badruddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin’s brother and a top deputy; Jan Baz Zadran, the group’s third in command; Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior military commander who was the Taliban’s shadow governor of Paktika; and Abdullah Haqqani, who coordinated and trained the group’s suicide bombers.
Fifth strike reported in Pakistan this year
Today’s strike in Kurram is the fifth of its kind reported in Pakistan this year. It is also only the fifth since the US killed Afghan Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in an airstrike in Baluchistan province in May 2016.
In a May 24 airstrike, the US killed “Abdullah,” who was identified by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as “a great master in electronics.” Abdullah was associated with Akhtar Muhammad Khalil, the Taliban’s emir for North Waziristan.
On March 2, US drones reportedly killed two jihadists as they rode on a motorcycle in the tribal agency of Kurram. An Afghan Taliban commander known as Qari Abdullah Subari is believed to have been killed in the strike, according to Reuters. And on Apr. 29, US drones reportedly killed al Qaeda commander Abdul Raheem.
Drone strikes in Pakistan have tapered off significantly since the peak of operations against al Qaeda’s leadership and allied jihadist groups in 2010, when 117 strikes were recorded. In 2015, the US launched only 11 drone attacks. In 2016, there were only three more, including the one targeting Mansour in May 2016, which was the final one for the year, the last of President Obama’s second term.