The US killed 16 jihadists, including four Uzbeks, in two drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The strikes ended a six month long pause in Pakistan.
In the first strike, the unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired several missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Darga Mandi in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, Dawn reported. The village is just outside of Miramshah, the home of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda.
Four “Uzbeks,” likely from the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and two members of the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab were reported to have been killed in today’s strike.
The US has launched five other strikes in Darga Mandi since the drone program in Pakistan began in 2005. In one strike, on Sept. 5, 2013, the US killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network leader and Taliban shadow governor of Afghanistan’s Paktika province who held Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who was recently exchanged for five top Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay.
In the second strike, which took place early on the morning of June 12, US drones fired six missiles at “four different compounds and a pick-up truck” in the village of Danda Darpa Khel in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan, Dawn reported. Ten “militants” are reported to have been killed in the attack. More than five drones are said to have circled the area during the strike.
The strikes took place just one day after both the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for the suicide assault on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. The IMU, which claimed it attacked US aircraft being stored secretly at the airport, likely carried out the attack in conjunction with the Taliban. [See LWJ report, IMU involved in suicide assault on Karachi airport.]
Today’s drone strike is the first in Pakistan since Dec. 25, 2013. The US put the program on hold after the Pakistani government entered into peace talks with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Although US officials have claimed that the drone strikes were halted due to a lack of identifiable high-value targets in Pakistan, intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that is not the case.
“Pakistan remains a hub for al Qaeda and allied movements operating along the AfPak border and beyond,” one intelligence official said. “Al Qaeda’s General command is still operating there, and is staffed by a new and dangerous generation of leaders. Zawahiri and his staff are still operating in Pakistan.”
Part of the problem, another intelligence official observed, is that while the US has confined its strikes to the tribal areas, and particularly to North and South Waziristan, where al Qaeda has been active in the past, al Qaeda’s operations are not limited to those areas.
“We didn’t kill Osama bin Laden in North Waziristan, he was living comfortably in Abbottabad when the SEALs showed up,” the official said. “Do we think it is any different for Zawahiri?”