Drone strike kills Haqqani commander in Pakistan
REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- U.S. drone missile strikes killed seven suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal areas Thursday, including a logistics commander for the Haqqani network, as Washington continued efforts to hunt down Haqqani militants who use Pakistani territory to launch attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
The commander, Jalil Haqqani, is a relative of the militant group's top operations leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, though it is not known exactly how they are related. Pakistani intelligence sources confirmed that Jalil Haqqani was killed in a drone strike on a compound near Dande Darpa Khel, a village in the tribal region of North Waziristan, where Haqqani militants have maintained strongholds and training camps for years.
Jalil Haqqani was walking out of the compound when a U.S. drone fired two missiles at the site, the sources said. Three other suspected militants were killed in the attack. Dande Darpa Khel has been the target of past drone strikes.
A second drone strike Thursday killed three suspected militants in the town of Angoor Adda in South Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence sources said.
After attacks last month on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and an American military base in Afghanistan's Wardak province were tied to the Haqqani network, Washington warned it would ramp up efforts to go after the group’s compounds and havens in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Days before he retired from his post as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the Haqqani network was "a veritable arm" of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the ISI. Mullen also accused the ISI of involvement in the 20-hour siege on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sept. 13, as well as the truck bombing at the base in Wardak that wounded more than 70 U.S. soldiers.
Since Mullen made those accusations, relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have become severely strained. Washington wants Pakistan's military to uproot Haqqani militants from their strongholds in North Waziristan, but Pakistan has steadfastly refused, arguing that its forces are already battling militants in other tribal regions and that the country does not have the manpower to launch another operation.
Though the U.S. continues to battle the Haqqani network militarily, it has left the door open for peace talks with the militant group and other Afghan Taliban factions behind the insurgency in Afghanistan.
President Obama’s chief envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, met with Pakistan's top military and civilian leaders Thursday in Islamabad to discuss options for stabilizing and securing Afghanistan, as well as ways in which Washington and Islamabad can begin shoring up frayed ties.
-- Alex Rodriguez and Zulfiqar Ali. Ali is a special correspondent reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan
Photo: U.S. envoy Marc Grossman and Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's foreign minister, begin talks in Islamabad. Credit: T. Mughal / EPA