The US killed two “militants” in an area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan that is known to host al Qaeda and a variety of Pakistani and regional terror groups.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at the two militants as they were riding on a motorcycle in the village of Musaki in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials told Dawn.
The target of the strike has not been identified, and no senior leaders or operatives of al Qaeda, the Taliban, or other terror groups based in the area are reported to have been killed.
Today’s strike is just the second in Pakistan this month. The previous strike, which took place in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan on July 2, killed Abu Saif al Jaziri, an al Qaeda military commander; Maulana Akhtar Zadran, a Haqqani Network officer; and 15 other people.
The Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. He is rumored to have been killed in a US drone strike last year, but the report was never confirmed.
Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area. Moreover, Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the area.
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 al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network or Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar and are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.
Today’s strike is just the third since President Barack Obama’s speech at the end of May outlining a reduced US counterterrorism role in the world. Obama 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. Obama claimed that al Qaeda has been sufficiently weakened, despite the fact that the terrorist organization has expanded its operations in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, and in North and West Africa.
The US has launched 17 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 342 strikes recorded since 2004, 325, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.