US kills Afghan Taliban commander in drone strike inside Pakistan

The US killed an Afghan Taliban leader in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Kurram today, according to reports from the region. The commander, Jamiuddin, was a “trusted man” within the Haqqani Network, a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban, who helped fighters move from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

An unmanned aerial vehicle, likely a Reaper operated by the CIA, fired two missiles at a vehicle as it stopped in the Mata Sanghar area of Kurram, sources told Reuters. A Pakistani official also said an unnamed “associate” was also killed in the attack.

A Haqqani Network leader told Reuters that Jamiuddin “was our trusted man” who “used to facilitate our fighters during their movement inside Afghanistan.”

The Haqqani Network is an integral part of the Afghan 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 ramped up in 2008 under President George W. Bush. The US has killed 13 senior 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.

Today’s strike is the second inside Pakistan this month, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. On Dec. 18, US drones struck a compound, also in the Mata Sanghar area of Kurram. No casualties were reported, according to Dawn. That compound is reportedly owned by Bashrat Khan, a commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TIP).

Eighth strike reported in Pakistan this year

Today’s strike in Kurram is the eighth of its kind reported in Pakistan this year. It is also eighth since the US killed Afghan Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in an airstrike in Baluchistan province in May 2016.

The US has killed at least four senior jihadists in those attacks inside Pakistan this year. 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 April 29, US drones reportedly killed al Qaeda commander Abdul Raheem. And 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.

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 and the last of President Obama’s second term.

President Donald Trump has vowed to take a tougher line on Pakistan, and in a speech in August, called out the country for providing safe haven and support for the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist groups in the region.

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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