US drones target Haqqani network in Pakistan

The number of US drone strikes in Pakistan this year has already crossed 70.

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2010, 13:04 PM IST

Islamabad: Apparently frustrated over Pakistan military`s inaction against the dreaded Haqqani network, the US has unleashed a wave of drone attacks killing dozens of militants in North Waziristan this month.

Since September 02, there have been 13 strikes by unmanned spy planes in North Waziristan - the highest number in a month since the US began using drones to hit targets in Pakistan in 2004, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The number of drone strikes this year has already crossed 70, the highest figure for a single year.

There were two attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday that killed 32 militants including Commander Saifullah, a cousin of Sirajuddin, a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The US is hoping to downgrade the operational capabilities of the Haqqani group, which it considers the most lethal militant outfit in Afghanistan.

Military sources were quoted by the Dawn as saying that an operation in North Waziristan had been delayed because the Pakistan Army is preoccupied with fighting militancy in other tribal areas and flood relief efforts.

This window was fully exploited by the Haqqani group to intensify its activities, defence analysts said.

"The Americans want to check that freedom of space available to the Haqqanis through intensified drone attacks," a source said.

The daily reported there were "few takers for the Pakistani explanation" about the delay in launching an operation in North Waziristan and many described the delay as tactical.

Pakistan had in June initiated efforts to secure a place for the Haqqani group in post-war Afghanistan by working out a rapprochement between the network and the Hamid Karzai government.

US opposition to the initiative halted the move. Sources said Pakistan would make fresh moves to discuss peace with the Haqqanis, in the context of the overall reconciliation plan, during Afghan President Hamid Karzai`s current visit to Pakistan. Karzai arrived in Islamabad yesterday on a two-day visit.

The pattern of the drone attacks this month showed that the primary target was the Haqqani network, though its host commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar and foreign militants of al Qaeda have also been targeted.

Bureau Report