The US killed four suspected Haqqani Network fighters in the second drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan in six days.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles today at a compound in the village of Darga Mandi in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan.
Pakistani intelligence officials told Dawn that the four fighters were members of the Haqqani Network. The identities of the Haqqani Network fighters who were killed have not been disclosed.
The Haqqani Network is a powerful Taliban faction that operates in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, and is based in North Waziristan in Pakistan. The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and is supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Siraj is the operational commander of the Haqqani Network and leads the Miramshah Shura, one of four major Taliban regional councils. Siraj is also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on the Haqqani Network or other Taliban groups such as one run by Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. But the groups shelter and support al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and a host of other terror groups that attack the Pakistani state. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, in protest against US drone strikes.
Since 2008, nine top Haqqani Network leaders, including Sirajuddin, have been placed on the US list of terrorists; six of them were designated in 2011. All of them have ties to al Qaeda. Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the group who is also a senior Afghan Taliban leader, has not been added to the list. For more information on the Haqqani Network, see LWJ report, US adds Haqqani Network to list of terror groups.
The US killed a Haqqani Network leader known as Maulana Akhtar Zadran along with Abu Saif al Jaziri, an al Qaeda military commander from the Lashkar al Zil, in a drone strike in North Waziristan on July 2.
Today’s strike is the second since Aug. 31, when four members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda allied jihadist group, were killed in North Waziristan. The US has launched only six strikes in Pakistan since President Barack Obama’s speech at the end of May outlining a reduced US counterterrorism role in the world.
Prior to the Aug. 31 strike, the previous drone attack took place on July 28; three al Qaeda military trainers, from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Kuwait, were killed.
Obama has said that the drones, which are currently operated by the CIA, will eventually be turned over to the military, and that the pace of the strikes will be reduced. Even though al Qaeda has expanded its operations in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, and Egypt, and in North and West Africa, Obama claimed that the terrorist organization has been sufficiently weakened.
The US has launched 20 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.
The US has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 345 strikes recorded since 2004, 328, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies. But al Qaeda is known to have an extensive network throughout Pakistan.