By Alex Shone, UK Defence Forum Research Associate in Residence
The total number of drone attacks for 2011 has now reached 19 according to the Long War Journal resulting in a total of 83 insurgent and terrorist casualties. The journal now reports at least 21 civilian casualties as a result of attacks.
March has been a month of steady drone activity. Notable events were the controversial attack on the 17th March which is thought to have killed a large number of suspected militants, though perhaps also to have killed civilians.
It is also worthy of note the reaction by militant groups in the region to the drone strikes, particularly the strike of the 17th. Action taken by the militants against those they deem as 'spies', the human intelligence assets helping to target drone strikes, appears to have intensified.
The Taliban have created a group assigned to hunt down tribesmen suspected of providing information to the CIA that enables the Predator campaign to target terrorist leaders in Pakistani tribal areas.
The group, known as the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, or Army of the Khorasan, was established in North Waziristan last year by both the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The creation of the group was confirmed by Pakistani intelligence officials, tribesmen, and members of the Taliban.
A "dual hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander" who leads forces on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has threatened to avenge a recent controversial Predator strike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Qari Zia Rahman, who commands both al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, threatened to retaliate against US forces in Afghanistan for the March 17 Predator strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The strike, which was denounced by top Pakistani military and political leaders, killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
The Taliban executed four more so-called 'US spies' who were accused of providing information that led to last week's controversial Predator airstrike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
The Taliban also accused the men of aiding the US in the March 17 Predator strike that killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
US Predators carried out another attack in the al Qaeda haven of Datta Khel in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, the second in the area in two days.
Reports as to the precise number of casualties differ as do those surrounding the target of the strike. It is believed that a large number of militant fighters were among the dead, as were civilians and even perhaps members of the security forces.
This strike was strongly and openly condemned by Pakistan's top military commander, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Reviewed by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum
Between 1986 and 1998 STRATFOR'S Fred Burton was at the forefront of the United States' counterterrorism efforts. As part of the relatively low-profile Diplomatic Security Service's (DSS) Counterterrorism Branch, Burton gained first experience of religious terrorism and extremism. 'Ghost' is his attempt to take the reader into his – and the West's – struggle against terrorist atrocities. This is a journey into what Burton calls the 'Dark World' and as such throws light on the response to terrorism that is seen by all but a few.
Ghost is divided into three sections, each reflecting stages of Burton's career with the DSS and also developments within the international system. Part 1 details Burton's transition from a beat cop into a counterterrorism professional. It also covers the Beirut hostage crisis and the beginnings of Libya's support for Middle East terrorism. From the outset it is absolutely staggering just how inadequately prepared the United States was for international terrorism. Initially, the Counterterrorism Branch was comprised of just three federal officers. There were no set guidelines or standard procedures and you get the sense that Burton and the team truly made it up as they went along.
To begin, Burton applies a beat cop mentality to the task at hand. At times part 1 reads a little bit like a counterterrorism manual. It is full of anecdotes about lessons learned, advice to take out into the field and 'do's and don'ts'. Part 1 also provides the reader with the side of intelligence and counterterrorism that is regularly played out in Hollywood movies. Burton introduces us to the FOGHORN messenger facilities, the standard uniform and accessories of a federal agent and the near constant stream of intelligence that needs to be sifted and made sense of quickly. There is also a sense that because the Counterterrorism Branch was so small and compartmentalised they were a breed apart from Washington's other federal agencies. Yet all this is forgotten when it is discovered that they have lost one of their own.
As hostages are gradually released in Lebanon it becomes clear that William Buckley, the former CIA Bureau Chief in Beirut, died in captivity. Burton's memoirs capture the overall despair that all federal agencies felt in not saving the life of a colleague. Indeed the death of Buckley is one of many acts of extremism that Burton and his own take very personally. In doing so the Counterterrorism Branch shifts from being a regular place of work to almost the cornerstone of Burton's very existence. Holidays are lost, family commitments are overlooked and weekends merge into the working week.
A further demonstration of how all consuming counterterrorism became to Burton is his 'hit-list' of terrorists. For twelve years, Burton did not rest in his attempts to bring each and every name on that list to justice. Indeed many names were added to the list throughout his career. The bombing of the TWA Flight over Greece, the Lockerbie disaster and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre all bring the same heartfelt response from Burton. They also take him to the safe-houses and the back streets of the world in his attempts to capture those responsible. When Burton slips off the scene almost entirely, the reader joins him on a journey into the murkiest parts of the 'Dark World'.
Since December 6th the United States has carried out six unmanned airstrikes:
December 10th: Four 'militants' were killed in an airstrike against a vehicle and compound in the village of Khadar Khel, Datta Khel, North Waziristan. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were thought to be amongst the casualties.
December 14th: Two missiles were fired at a vehicle travelling through the village of Spalga, Miramshah, North Waziristan. Four 'militants' were killed in the attack.
December 16th: The United States carried out their first unmanned airstrike outside of North Waziristan since late September. Unmanned aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle travelling in the Tirah Valley, Khyber. Seven 'militants' believed to be from Swat and South Waziristan were reportedly killed in the attack. The airstrike was only the second undertaken within the Khyber region since the US began its unmanned campaign in 2004.
December 17th: The Khyber region remained the focus of US airstrikes for the second day running. Three separate strikes reportedly resulted in the deaths of 54 'militants'. Fifteen were reported killed in an attack on a compound in the village of Shandana in the Tirah Valley; seven were killed in an airstrike on a similar building in the village of Nakai, Malik Deen Khel. According to reports, 32 members of the Lashkar-e-Islam were killed in an attack on a compound in the village Speen Drang, Tirah Valley. As with all recent attacks no senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were amongst the casualties.
According to the Long War Journal the recent relocation of the unmanned campaign to the Khyber region may represent a shift in US strategy. The Khyber – and in particular the Tirah Valley – has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaida activity. This came in response to Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan in late 2009.
Since November 3rd the United States has carried out 10 unmanned airstrikes.
November 7th: The US carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan today. Unmanned Predators or Reapers first attacked a vehicle and a compound in the village of Ghulam Khan in the Miramshah area. Nine 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.
The second attack targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – the term used to describe Arab and Central Asian operatives – were killed in the strike.
No senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were reported killed in the attack.
November 11th: Six missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Gulli Khel, Ghulam Khan. The attack targeted a group of 'fighters' returning to North Waziristan from Khost province in Afghanistan. Of the six killed in the attack none were believed to be senior operatives. However the nature of the strike suggests that a senior figure or wanted operative was the main focus of the attack.
November 13th: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound and a vehicle in the village of Ahmad Khel in the Mir Ali region of North Waziristan. Whilst Pakistani officials claimed four 'militants' were killed in the attack, reports from the scene also suggested that civilians may have been killed in the strike.
November 19th: Three 'militants' were killed in an attack on a vehicle travelling in the village of Norak, Mir Ali. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.
November 21st: The US struck a compound and vehicle in the village of Khaddi, near Miramshah. Pakistani intelligence officials initially indicated that six 'militants' were killed in the attack. However later press reports speculated that nine 'militants' were killed and that three civilians harbouring operatives were also amongst the casualties.
November 22nd: The second attack in as many days targeted a vehicle and motorcycle in the village of Khushali, Miramshah. Five 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, yet none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives.
November 26th: An unmanned airstrike today against a vehicle travelling within the village of Pir Kali, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. The area is known to host a number of al Qaida operatives. Yet of the four killed in the attack none were deemed to be senior figures.
November 28th: The US undertook a similar strike against a vehicle as it travelled within the village of Hasan Khel, Mir Ali. Despite the continued concentration on a region known to host al Qaida operatives, the four 'militants' killed in the strike were not thought be senior figures in this movement or the Taliban.
December 6th: After a period of relative quiet the United States today struck a vehicle and a compound in the village of Kyshore, Datta Khel. The U.S. drone first attacked the 'militants' vehicle, killing two whilst another three escaped. The drone then attacked a shop hiding the others. This strike killed the three 'militants' whilst wounding three others.
According to the Long War Journal the United States has carried 106 unmanned airstrikes to date throughout 2010. This is a 50% increase from last year, and just over 50% of all airstrikes undertaken since 2004. The focus of attacks has overwhelmingly been North Waziristan. To date, 92% of all strikes have been carried out here in comparison with 7% in South Waziristan. Interestingly there has been a significant shift in the targeting of al Qaida/Taliban factions. In 2009 the main focus of attack was the Mehsud network. However 2010 saw an increase in attacks on Bahadar network and to a lesser extent the Haqqanis.
Since October 13th the United States has carried out 12 unmanned air strikes.
October 15th: The United States today launched a pair of unmanned air strikes against villages in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. The first strike hit a compound in the village of Marchi Khel, killing five 'militants'. The second attack on a vehicle in the village of Aziz Khel killed an additional four 'militants'. No senior Taliban or al Qaida operatives were reported killed in the attacks.
October 18th: Six missiles were fired at a compound and vehicle in Sunzalai village, Datta Khel, North Waziristan. Six 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, with an additional five injured. Interestingly, four Predators appeared to circle over the scene after the attack.
October 27th: The United States launched its first strike in nine days with two attacks on targets in North Waziristan. The first attack struck a compound in the village of Spin Wam, Mir Ali. The target was a house belonging to a militant identified as Nasimullah Khan. According to the Associated Press foreign fighters were reported to be staying at the house. Two 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.
The second strike hit a vehicle in the village of Degan, Datta Khel. Two Arab al Qaida members and two 'Westerners' were reported killed in the attack.
In both instances, the exact targets of the strikes remain unclear, and no senior operatives were thought to be amongst the victims.
October 28th: The US launched their third attack in two days against a compound in the village of Ismail Khan, Datta Khel. Seven 'militants' were reported killed and were wounded.
November 1st: Two missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Haider Khan, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. According to Pakistani security sources the compound belonged to a local tribesman and was believed to be sheltering local 'militants'. Six 'militants' were reported killed; however none were thought to be senior operatives.
November 3rd: Thirteen 'militants' were killed in three separate airstrikes within North Waziristan. In the first strike four 'militants' were reported killed after two missiles were fired at a vehicle in Qutub Khel, a suburb of Miramshah. The vehicle was reportedly laden with arms and ammunition.
In the second strike another vehicle was targeted in the village of Kaiso Khel, Datta Khel. Five 'militants' were reported killed in this strike.
Yet another vehicle was attacked in a strike in the Mir Ali area. Four 'militants' were reported killed in this attack. Yet despite the intensity of today's airstrikes, no senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the dead.
November 7th: Two airstrikes today in North Waziristan killed 14 'militants', including five 'foreigners'.
In the first attack missiles were fired on a compound and vehicle in the village of Ghulam Khan, Miramshah. Nine 'militants' were killed in this strike.
The second airstrike of the day targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – a term used to describe Arab or Central Asian al Qaida operatives – were reported killed. However in both instances no senior operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.
In comparison with last month's Drone Wars, the United States appears to have dramatically scaled back its unmanned campaign. Nevertheless, the Long War Journal reports that the US has conducted 97 airstrikes to date in 2010. Should the attacks continue with the same intensity throughout the rest of November/early December then the United States is likely to double its tally of unmanned strikes in comparison with 2009.
North Waziristan remains the overwhelming focus for the majority of airstrikes. However on the 8th November the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) claimed that six Taliban groups in South Waziristan had now joined the larger organization. The groups have all reportedly expressed their confidence in the leadership of the TTP's Hakeemullah Mehsud. As a result of increased TTP activities in South Waziristan, it will be interesting to monitor how many airstrikes are undertaken here throughout the rest of 2010.
Since August 27th the United States has carried out 31 unmanned airstrikes.
September 3rd: The United States carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan. The first attack saw two missiles fired at a compound near Miramshah. Six 'local militants' were killed in the attack, with none believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban figures. A second strike hit a compound in the town of Data Khel. Nine Taliban fighters were reported killed in this attack, including a local commander known as Inayatullah.
September 4th: A third airstrike in the space of two days focussed upon a compound and vehicle in the Data Khel region of North Waziristan. Between five and eight militants were reported in the attack on the village of Mizer.
September 6th: Two missiles were fired at a vehicle in the village of Khar Qamar, Data Khel, North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that five militants were killed in the attack, although none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives. However, the Long War Journal indicates that not only is Data Khel the stronghold of Hafiz Gul Badahar – a leading Taliban commander – it is also a known hub for al Qaida's top leadership.
September 8th: There were four unmanned airstrikes over twenty-fours as the United States' campaign in North Waziristan gathered momentum. The first strike against a compound in the town of Danda Darpa Khel reportedly killed ten militants. This was followed by another attack claiming the lives of four Haqqani network fighters. A third airstrike took place in the town of Ambor Shaga, Data Khel. In this attack three missiles were fired at a vehicle, killing four militants. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were reported killed in these strikes.
The fourth airstrike of the day focussed upon the town of Miramshah. Three missiles were fired at a compound resulting in the death of six Taliban fighters and five injuries. It was reported that some of the victims were Afghans. Whilst no senior operatives at the time were believed to have been killed in this attack, the Taliban reportedly cordoned off the area and attempted to recover the dead and the wounded.
However on September 30th reports emerged that eight Germans and two Britons were amongst the dead in the Data Khel airstrike. They were involved in the recently exposed plot to conduct a range of Mumbai-style attacks throughout Europe. The casualties also included an Islamic Jihad Group commander who trained Europeans to carry out attacks on their home soil.
The Islamic Jihad Group – a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – is known to operate a 'German Taliban village' in Waziristan.
Today was the first time that the United States carried out four airstrikes within a 24 hour period.
Since the 25th July the United States has carried out five unmanned airstrikes:
August 14th: The U.S. carried out its first airstrike in almost three weeks on a compound in the village of Issori, near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Reports suggested that twelve al Qaida or Taliban operatives sheltering in the compound were killed in the attack. None were believed to be senior figures.
August 21st: Reports claimed that the United States fired four missiles from an unmanned aircraft at vehicles and a compound outside the village of Anghar Kala, Miramshah, North Waziristan. The airstrike killed six people, including 'foreigners'.
August 23rd: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, Miramshah, North Waziristan. Five terrorists and seven civilians were killed in the attack. In a second attack, five Taliban fighters were killed when UAVs fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Derga Mandi. The latter strike was the 53rd conducted by the United States this year. This meant that the United States had now matched its entire strike total for the previous year.
August 27th: The United States changed the focus of its unmanned airstrikes to the tribal agency of Kurram. An unmanned airstrike hit two vehicles near a compound in the village of Shahidano. Whilst no senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were amongst the four killed in the attack, Pakistani sources claimed the airstrike targeted members of Hakeemullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban. According to the Long War Journal the Taliban regrouped in Kurram after the Pakistani military launched its offensive in South Waziristan in 2009. The Taliban in Kurram are commanded by Maluvi Noor Jamal, who is regarded as a potential successor to Hakeemullah.
In July 2010 the Chief of the General Staff Sir David Richards (CDS-designate) hosted a special showing of The Great Game, a series of 12 short plays about the culture and history of Afghanistan, at the Tricycle Theatre in London. He took his own immediate staff, people from the MoD including the Second Permanent Secretary, a senior Treasury official and other opinion-leaders.
The programme notes included an excellent history of modern Afghanistan from the 1830's to the present day by Jane Shallice, who is also a member of the Stop the War Coalition. It is reproduced here by her kind permission and that of the theatre, whose Director Nicolas Kent commissioned the works and which, with the active support of General Richards, is taking them to be performed across the United States (including Washington DC.)
You can read the whole history here.
What follows is an edited version of an article which appeared in the New York Times on March 17th. The full article can be found here
A missile fired by an American drone killed at least four people recently at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda.
Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes have become one of the military's favourite weapons despite many shortcomings resulting from the rush to get them into the field.
Since the 29th June the United States has carried out four unmanned airstrikes:
July 10th: The United States' first unmanned airstrike in two weeks was against a compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Pakistani officials reported that between 10 and 14 'militants' were killed in the strike. However at this time none were believed to be senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures.
July 24th: Several missiles were fired during an unmanned strike against a hideout used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Angora Adda area of South Waziristan. The strike killed 16 Taliban 'militants,' however none were deemed senior operatives.
The government of Pakistan knows the lack of policing capacity in the North West Frontier Province(NWFP) is a serious problem and as asked the UK for assistance in improving the effectiveness of the NWFP police through President Zardai, NWFP Chief Minister Hoti, and NWFP Inspector General of Police Malik Naveed Khan.
The UK is to make a gift of body armour with a value of £497,850. This equates to 870 sets of body armour and will complement training and other capacity building for the Police as part of a larger project to secure Peschawar and the NWFP. The decision to gift is due to the perilous and worsening security situation in Pakistan's NWFP.
By Rep Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, U.S.Congress
More than anything else, I am pleased that we finally have a strategy to address Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan has been the forgotten war, and President Obama corrects this regrettable mistake. There is no guarantee of success with this strategy, but not having a strategy, as we have not for the past eight years, is certainly a guarantee of failure. At last, we can finally see a way ahead in this most important war.
Published in the New York Times 24/03/09
The opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, sealed his place as the most popular politician in Pakistan this month when he defied his house detention and led a triumphant protest that forced the government to restore the country's chief justice.
Mr. Sharif spoke to thousands of party supporters on Monday at a medical center in Raiwind. More Photos >
Now, as the Obama administration completes its review of strategy toward the region this week, his sudden ascent has raised an urgent question: Can Mr. Sharif, 59, a populist politician close to Islamic parties, be a reliable partner? Or will he use his popular support to blunt the military's already fitful campaign against the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda?
Often unreported by the Western media, strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan from unmanned aerial vehicles are a regular occurrence. But this is not a cost-free option, as the suicide bombing that killed 7 CIA operatives showed - and that incident can be linked directly back to networks hit repeatedly in Pakistan.
Many of the strikes are chronicled by our friends at The Long War Journal. Their analysis shows that casualty levels have risen drastically over the last 3 years: 73 Taliban/ Al Qaeda in 2007; 286 Taliban/Al Qaeda and 31 civilians in 2008; 404 Taliban/ Al Qaeda and 43 civilians up to the end of September. Almost all of these took place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.
The purpose of these strikes (many of which are unacknowledged or revealed in Pakistan when "civilians" are killed) is to disrupt Al Qaeda networks and Taliban operations in Afghanistan, plus Pakistani Taliban leaders who threaten that state. It should also be noted that more than 70% of US and NATO supplies pass through Pakistan's north-west provinces.
The US House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep Ike Skelton said of the likely killing of the Taliban's top leader in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud:
"If confirmed, the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the top Taliban leader in Pakistan, is a major blow to al Qaeda's efforts to destabilize Pakistan and the region. It is a sign that our joint efforts with Pakistan's military to combat al Qaeda and other terrorists are working. And, it serves as a reminder to al Qaeda and the Taliban that the United States of America will track them and hold them accountable for their actions.
"I praise the men and women of our military and of our intelligence services for carrying out this important mission. We have the best and the brightest working each day to protect our people and American interests throughout the world."
Reports of the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud demonstrate that cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan against militants located in the tribal border areas is beginning to bear fruit. Although U.S. officials have not yet confirmed the demise of Mehsud, several senior Taliban leaders and Pakistan's foreign minister have declared he was killed by a U.S. drone missile strike in South Waziristan on Wednesday. If it was indeed successful, this strike represents the culmination of a campaign targeting Mehsud and his forces, an effort that has reportedly been facilitated by Pakistani intelligence.
By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, U K Defence Forum
On the 13th January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information request asking the US government to disclose the legal basis for the use of predator drones to conduct 'targeted killings.' From the very outset of the war on terror US administrations have used unmanned drones to target and kill terrorists. More recently, use of unmanned drones has expanded within Pakistan. As a result of the expansion of drone activities the ACLU argues that the American public has a right to know whether the programme is compliant with international law. The ACLU is also keen to establish whether the programme seeks to minimise the number of civilian casualties.
On the 8th June the Global Strategy Forum hosted the above lecture given by Dr Shirin Akiner. Outlined below are some of the key points from that lecture.
The origins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) can be traced to the end of the Cold War. For much of the Cold War era relations between China and the Soviet Union were characterised by antagonism and suspicion. The heavily guarded Sino-Soviet border, for example, was fiercely contested territory prone to sporadic outbursts of conflict. However, in the early 1990s China embarked on a diplomatic initiative to change the status quo.
The Pakistani military has killed a Taliban commander who was one of the 21 most-wanted leaders in the northern district of Swat, dealing another setback to the terror group that once controlled the region.
Pakistani troops killed Nisar, who is also known as Ghazi Baba, "in an encounter" outside the main town in Swat, AFP reported. Security forces killed Nisar and captured his son during an early morning raid northwest of Mingora.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/10/pakistani_army_kills.php#ixzz0TZEPzRPh
Since the 1st February the United States have carried out three airstrikes. The targets were:
2nd February – Five unmanned US strike aircraft are reported to have fired 18 missiles at a camp and vehicles in the village of Datta Khel, North Waziristan. According to the Long War Journal this is the largest recorded US airstrike in Pakistan. This also indicates that top al Qaida, Taliban or Haqqani leaders may have been targeted. Seventeen terrorists were reported killed in the attack. However none of the reported casualties have been al Qaida or Taliban leaders.