Washington, June 5 — While part of the reason for Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad’s abortive car bombing in New York’s Times Square is said to have been the US campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistani territory, this strategy is now central to how the Obama Administration approaches quelling terrorist outfits in that country especially in North Waziristan. According to the latest data from Long War Journal, which is the standard for tracking covert airstrikes in Pakistan, the number of such attacks till May 15 this year has already matched that for 2008 and could soon equal that for all of last year. There have been 36 strikes this year as against 53 in 2009. Intelligence analyst and Long War Journal’s Managing Editor Bill Roggio said, “It could break last year’s total some time in July at this pace.” While the strategy originally had been to strike at high value target, it now also involves targeting Al Qaeda’s external networks, those that want to strike in the US, as well as the training camps of the multitude of terror outfits that have made their base mainly in North Waziristan. Even Punjabi Taliban groups appear to have moved to the North after the Pakistan Army’s operations in South Waziristan. While there has been pressure from the US on Pakistan to move into North Waziristan, especially after the Times Square episode, Pakistan’s Army has been reluctant to do so. In fact, the group which Shahzad was linked to, the Tehrik-e-Taliban or the Pakistan Taliban is centred in North Waziristan. That is where he also received training in bomb making. In addition, while the majority of attacks are undertaken by the MQ-1 Predator, another advanced drone, the MQ-9 Reaper has also been introduced into the theater. However, there are no numbers for a break down of strikes by category of drone.
An official said, “The US Air Force proposed the MQ-9 system in response to the Department of Defense request for Global War on Terrorism initiatives. It is larger and more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and is designed to go after time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets.”