It appears that there may be a coordinated agreement on a campaign to put pressure on the Taliban in the tribal border areas of Pakistan.
U.S. Attack Kills Several in Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH
Published: September 8, 2008 NYT
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Five missiles fired from an American pilotless drone aircraft Monday hit a large compound in North Waziristan belonging to one of Pakistan’s most prominent Taliban leaders, a Pakistani intelligence official and a local resident said.
The missile attack at about 10:20 Monday morning killed nine people, including two children, and injured up to 18, according to the account from the intelligence official. A spokesman for the Pakistani army, Maj. Murad Khan, said the military knew of explosions near the compound, and was investigating further.
The strike targeted the compound run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who the United States has accused of organizing some of the most serious recent attacks in Afghanistan against American and NATO forces and of masterminding a failed assassination attempt against the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
The two Haqqanis protect Al Qaeda forces in their enclaves in North and South Waziristan, provide logistics and intelligence for Al Qaeda operatives, and act as a bridge between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban who share the common mission to drive American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, according to American officials.
A spokesman at the United States embassy in Islamabad, Lou Fintor, said the embassy had no comment on the strike.
The attack comes less than a week after the first publicly acknowledged ground operation by American Special Operations forces against Taliban operating inside Pakistan. The helicopter-borne forces struck at militants in a village in South Waziristan last Wednesday at the start of what American commanders said would likely be a more sustained campaign against the Taliban operating in Pakistan’s tribal region.
The attack Monday was the third American missile strike on Taliban targets in South and North Waziristan since the ground attack last Wednesday.
The compound belonging to Sirajuddin Haqqani was chiefly used as a guest house for militants arriving in North Waziristan who wanted to join the jihad forces of the Haqqani family, local residents in Miram Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, said.
An increasing number of Turks, Chechens, and Uzbeks have been arriving in North Waziristan in the last several months, according to Pakistani military officials.
The attack Monday could have been aimed at deterring this influx for foreign fighters who are considered the toughest and most resilient of the Taliban forces.
Located a few miles from Miram Shah at a place called Daande Darpkhel, the Haqqani compound had been used as a madrassa for up to a thousand students but after pressure from Pakistani authorities was closed as a school several years ago, officials familiar with the Haqqani operations said.
It appeared that neither Sirajuddin Haqqani, or his father, Jalaluddin, was present at the compound. The family runs a number of training camps and facilities in North Waziristan, and have plenty of places to hide, the officials said.
ARY television, a private Pakistani television station, reported that Naseeruddin Haqqani, a younger brother of Sirajuddin, said his brother and father were "alive and well" in Afghanistan.
The missile strike also came on the eve of the inauguration of Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari. Mr. Zardari, who easily won an electoral college vote Saturday has declared that he will pursue the fight against the Taliban more vigorously. He is seen in Pakistan as pro-American and has been welcomed by the Bush administration for his support of the campaign on terror.
Two years ago, the elder Mr. Haqqani, now in his 60s and said to be in failing health, was called a “Pakistani asset” by a senior official of the Inter Services Intelligence agency as a way of explaining why the Pakistani army did not move against him.
One of the biggest complaints of the Bush administration has been the reluctance of the Pakistani government to sever its ties with Taliban militants like the Haqqanis. Pakistan has continued to regard the Taliban as a valuable force for protecting Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan in the event of an American withdrawal.
In the 1980s, the elder Mr. Haqqani was cultivated as a “unilateral” asset of the CIA, and received tens of thousands of dollar in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in the recent book “The Bin Ladens” by Steve Coll. At that time, the elder Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was then building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Mr. Coll wrote.