“Important Milestone”

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by Alexander Mallin & Arlette Saenz

Yahoo News / Good Morning America

May 23, 2016

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President Obama has released a statement confirming the death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, following an airstrike Saturday along the Afghanistan  and Pakistan border.

Obama called Mansoor’s death “an important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.”

“We have removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war against the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al Qa’ida,” Obama said in a paper statement.

The statement calls on the Taliban to “seize the opportunity” to re-engage in peace talks with Afghanistan’s government, with Obama warning that “we will continue taking action against extremist networks that target the United States.”

While Pakistan’s government said Sunday the airstrike amounted to a violation of its sovereignty, Obama noted the U.S. will work with the country but that “terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven.”

President Obama personally authorized the strike against Mansoor before leaving on a week-long trip to Vietnam and Japan.

Speaking in Hanoi Monday, Obama told reporters Mansoor’s death sends a message that the U.S. will protect its people.

“Where we have a high profile leader who has been consistently part of operations and plans to potentially harm U.S. personnel and who has been resistant to the kinds of peace talks and reconciliation that ultimately could bring an end to decades of war in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “Then it is my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others that we are going to protect our people and that’s exactly the message that has been sent.”

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https://gma.yahoo.com/obama-calls-taliban-leaders-death-important-milestone-afghanistan-053107187–abc-news-topstories.html

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US Drones Kill 4 In Pakistan

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Written by Bill Roggio

The Long War Journal

December 26, 2013

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The US killed four “militants” in a drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan late last night. The strike is the first in Pakistan in a month.

The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Qutab Khel near Miramshah in North Waziristan just after midnight, according to Dawn.  Several of the unmanned strike aircraft were seen hovering over the compound before and after the strike.

The target of the latest strike in Pakistan was not revealed, and no senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied jihadist commanders have been reported killed at this time. Pakistani officials told Dawn that Afghans were thought to be among those killed.

The attack took place in an area under the control of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban faction that operates in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, and is based in North Waziristan in Pakistan. The US has stepped up its targeting of the Haqqani Network this year. Since the beginning of September, two top Haqqani Network leaders, Mullah Sangeen Zadran and Maulvi Ahmed Jan, have been killed in strikes in North Waziristan.

The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and is supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Sirajuddin Haqqani 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.

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.

Today’s strike is the first recorded in Pakistan this month. Last month, the US conducted three airstrikes in North Waziristan, and killed two top jihadist leaders. On Nov. 1, the US killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in an attack in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. The next strike, on Nov. 21, killed Maulvi Amed Jan, a top leader in the Haqqani Network, and two other Haqqani Network senior commanders. And the last strike, on Nov. 28, is said to have killed a Pakistani from Punjab province who was involved in terror attacks inside Pakistan.

The last four strikes have taken place in areas administered by the Haqqani Network.

The strike near Miramshah today took place days after the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Ansar al Mujahideen clashed with Pakistani troops in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. The jihadist groups have targeted Pakistani security forces in suicide and IED attacks. The groups have claimed that the attacks were carried out to punish the troops for cooperating with the US in drone strikes that have killed top Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders…

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

The vast majority of the US drone strikes have taken place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. Of the 354 strikes since 2004, 253 have hit targets in North Waziristan, and 83 have hit targets in South Waziristan. In the other tribal areas, there have been three strikes in Bajaur, two in Arakzai, four in Kurram, and five in Khyber. Four more strikes have taken place outside of the tribal areas; three were in Bannu and one more was in Hangu.

The drone strikes are controversial; in October, groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International formally accused the US of indiscriminately killing civilians in strikes in both Pakistan and Yemen. But at the end of October, 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 2,088 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 105 reported civilian deaths in drone strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with 18 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 105.

The US has launched 28 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 each year since the program’s 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, but al Qaeda and allied groups are known to have an extensive network throughout all of Pakistan.

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Don’t Cry For Me, Oh Pakistan

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A village in North Waziristan, Pakistan…

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by Tim Craig

Washington Post

November 2, 2013

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A U.S. drone strike killed the chief of the Pakistani Taliban on Friday, local intelligence officials said, in an attack that could cripple the group but undermine an effort by Pakistan’s government to engage militants in peace talks.

If verified, the death of Hakimullah Mehsud would be a victory for U.S. officials who have spent years hunting down a leader implicated in a 2009 attack that killed seven Americans at a CIA outpost in eastern Afghanistan.

But the drone strike also threatened to add to strains between the United States and Pakistan, whose new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, had announced earlier in the day that his government would begin talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement with the group.

With that plan called off after the strike, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan issued a statement accusing the United States of carrying out “a conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks.’’

On Saturday, Pakistan filed a formal protest with the U.S. ambassador and plans to protest to all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, as well, according to the Foreign Ministry. Khan said that the government intends to review the “entire perspective of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship” at the highest levels.

“Our efforts have been ambushed, and it was not an ambush from the front,” he said.

Intelligence officials in northwestern Pakistan said Friday that Mehsud had been killed after he met with other senior Taliban leaders to discuss the peace initiative, one aimed at ending years of violence that has claimed more than 45,000 lives. A local Taliban commander confirmed Mehsud’s death.

In Washington, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said U.S. officials are not in a position to confirm reports of Mehsud’s death, “but if true, this would be a serious loss” for the Pakistani Taliban.

The attack came just eight days after a White House meeting in which Sharif and President Obama pledged closer cooperation between the two countries. In Pakistan, those who expressed outrage over the strike included Imran Khan, a senior political leader who said he would immediately press to have the government cut off NATO supply routes through northwest Pakistan, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan was following through on a threat he made Thursday, when he warned that U.S. supply routes to and from Afghanistan would be disrupted if the drone strikes were to continue. Other Pakistani and Taliban officials said it could take a few days to fully assess the political and strategic impact of the strike.

The interior minister said Saturday that the government will decide after Sharif returns to Islamabad whether to suspend the convoys.

Mehsud, who is believed to be about 33, took over as head of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009 after the group’s leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. The United States had offered a $5 million bounty for his capture.

Hakimullah Mehsud has been viewed as the linchpin for a broad range of Islamist militant groups that have sought to impose strict Islamic law in Pakistan. According to a 2010 BBC profile, Mehsud started out organizing attacks on NATO convoys in northwest Pakistan during the early years of…

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HM

The late Hakimullah Mehsud & Taliban & Al Qaeda cronies…

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…the war in Afghanistan. By 2009, he was the group’s commander and appeared in a video alongside the Jordanian man who carried out the suicide bombing at the CIA facility in Afghanistan.

In May 2010, Mehsud also surfaced in videos in which he vowed to attack U.S. cities. Hayden of the National Security Council noted that the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the failed bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1, 2010. Later that year, the U.S. government designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist group and formally charged Mehsud in the attack on the CIA base.

In recent months, Mehsud had kept a low profile, fearful of the U.S. drone campaign, Taliban officials said. He had relied on one of his top lieutenants, Latif Mehsud, to shuttle messages for him. But U.S. forces arrested Latif Mehsud as he traveled in Afghanistan several weeks ago.

Rifaat S. Hussain, a noted military analyst in Islamabad, said Hakimullah Mehsud’s death would be a major setback for the militant group. “The larger strategic implication of getting him — along with his deputy in U.S. custody — is that it puts them out of action,” Hussain said. “They are now faced with a scenario where, if they pull out of the negotiations, these drone strikes will continue to haunt them.”

Even before Friday’s strike, there were signs that the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership was splintering because of tactical and ideological differences. In the wake of Mehsud’s death, analysts said, the group’s cohesion could further break down, hindering Sharif’s effort to negotiate a peace deal with any one faction.

According to three local intelligence officials, Mehsud, his driver, his uncle and two guards were killed in Friday’s strike, which the officials said occurred outside a small mosque where several senior Taliban leaders had been meeting.

“They left the mosque for a [Taliban] compound, and when the vehicle was parked, a drone fired three missiles and hit the vehicle,” one official said, relaying information he had received from a local informer.

Reached by phone, a local Taliban commander in North Waziristan confirmed that Mehsud had been killed. The “respected chief has been martyred in the drone attack on Friday,” said the commander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Until Friday, the most recent major blow to the Pakistani Taliban had come in May, when the group’s second-ranking leader, Wali ur-Rehman, was killed in a drone strike. A month later, the Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for killing 10 foreign mountain climbers, including an American, who were trying to scale Pakistan’s second-highest mountain.

The group said that attack was in retaliation for Rehman’s death.

Hussain, the analyst in Pakistan, said U.S. officials probably calculated that the fallout from the strike would subside quickly, despite the potential for backlash from Pakistani officials.

“If they can decapitate the top military leadership of the [Taliban], this can create a case where the U.S. government can actually one day cease the drone attacks, and thereby limit the damage to public opinion” for the United States in Pakistan, Hussain said.

Haq Nawaz Khan and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and Greg Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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Hit by a drone…

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