The US launched its first drone strike in Pakistan in a month. Last night’s attack took place in an area of the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan that is administered by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Zafar in the Miramshah area of the tribal agency, Dawn reported. The strike killed “three suspected militants” and wounded three other people, a Pakistani intelligence official claimed. The identities of those killed and wounded were not disclosed.
Last night’s strike was the first in Pakistan since Sept. 30, when US drones killed three “rebels” in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. After that strike, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement denouncing the US strike and called for the US to bring a halt to the program that targets al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of terrorist groups operating in North and South Waziristan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also publicly called last week for the US to end the strikes, after his meeting with President Barack Obama.
The drone strikes are controversial, as groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused the US of indiscriminately killing civilians in strikes in both Pakistan and Yemen. But in the past week, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence released a report stating that 67 civilians have been killed in drone strikes since the beginning of 2009, and claimed that no civilians have been killed since the beginning of 2012.
The Long War Journal has recorded, based on Pakistani press reports, that at least 2,074 jihadists from al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of terror groups operating in North and South Waziristan have been killed in strikes since the beginning of 2009, including some of al Qaeda’s top leaders. There have also been 102 reported civilian deaths in drone strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with 15 civilians killed since the beginning of 2012. Civilian casualties are difficult to assess as the strikes take place in areas under Taliban control; the figure may be higher than 102.
The US has launched 24 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.
US continues to target the Haqqani Network
Over the past year, the Haqqani Network has been in the crosshairs of the CIA. 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. And last month the Taliban confirmed that Badruddin Haqqani, a top leader of the group, was killed in a US drone attack in August 2012.
Most recently, in September, the US killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who served as the deputy to Haqqani Network operational commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Mullah Sangeen also served as the Taliban’s shadow governor in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
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.
Since 2008, nine top Haqqani Network leaders, including Sirajuddin and Mullah Sangeen, 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, is also a senior Afghan Taliban leader, but 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.
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 allied Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar’s fighters are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, in protest against US drone strikes.