BY SHARON BEHN – SLAMABAD, Pakistan – Al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants are coming under increasing fire on the both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. The United States has conducted its third drone strike in as many days.
U.S. unmanned drones fired missiles at suspected insurgent hideouts in North Waziristan on Monday, killing at least 15 people. The Pakistani tribal area is a known hideout for militants.
Pakistan officials confirmed the dawn attack, which brings to at least 27 the total number of people killed in U.S. drone strikes in the last three days.
The strikes targeted militant leaders known to send fighters over the border into Afghanistan, and appeared to complement anti-Taliban operations there.
According to NATO, Afghan and coalition troops conducted more than 100 special operations in May, capturing and killing dozens of high-level al-Qaida, Taliban and other insurgent leaders.
Mohammad Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the Afghanistan’s Helmand provincial governor, confirmed the latest death — that of a top Taliban commander in the southern province.
He says that Mullah Abdul Salam Abid and a number of his fighters were killed by Afghan national army special units around three days ago. He says Abid had led Taliban operations in northern Helmand, and also was the brother of Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban’s second in command.
The Afghan National Directorate of Security says Afghan security forces handed over the body of Abid to tribal elders for burial.
In neighboring Pakistan, U.S. drone attacks against Taliban militants have continued despite public demands by the Pakistani government that they stop.
But security analyst Talat Masood says that privately, some Pakistani official are less than adamantly opposed to the strategy.
“There are many within the Pakistan military establishment as well as political circles who think that drones do have a certain value,” Talat said.
The continued strikes could, however, further sour diplomatic relations between Washington and Islamabad. Relations between the two have been strained since the killing last year of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a U.S. strike, which led Pakistan to shut down supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Despite its complicated relationship with Pakistan, there is no indication Washington intends to stop using drones in its fight against the Taliban, al-Qaida and other insurgents.