Friday, July 24, 2009

A Torrent Of Targets

Here's a nice look at US successes in Afghanistan that you'll not find in the MSM.


A Torrent Of Targets

July 24, 2009: The al Qaeda and Taliban leadership in Pakistan are having a growing problem with American UAV attacks. So far this year, the American Hellfire missiles have been used 31 times, causing 365 deaths (mostly al Qaeda or Taliban members, including over twenty senior leaders). For all of 2008, there were 36 attacks, causing 317 deaths. The UAV campaign actually began in earnest 11 months ago. Since then, there have been over fifty attacks, causing over 500 deaths. The rate of attacks has been increasing this year. While the terrorist groups are concerned about the losses, especially among the leadership, what alarms them the most is how frequently the American UAVs are finding their key people. The real problem the terrorists have is that someone is ratting them out. Someone, or something, is helping the Americans find the terrorist leaders. It wasn't always that way. In 2007, there were only five UAV attacks, three in 2006, one in 2005 and one in 2004. Back then, it wasn't just the lack of identified targets that kept the UAVs away, but fewer UAVs, and Pakistani resistance to American UAVs making attacks inside Pakistan (even though the targets were terrorists attacking Pakistanis, including senior leaders.) By 2008, the Pakistanis changed their mind.

This Hellfire campaign is hitting al Qaeda at the very top, although only 22 percent of the attacks so far have taken out any of the most senior leaders. But that means over half the senior leadership have been killed or badly wounded. Perhaps even greater damage has been done to the terrorist middle management. These are old and experienced lieutenants, as well as young up-and-comers. They are the glue that holds al Qaeda and the Taliban together. Their loss is one reason why it's easier to get more information on where leaders are, and why rank-and-file al Qaeda and Taliban are less effective of late..

While al Qaeda believes local Pakistanis are responsible for leaking location information to the Americans, it's a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the U.S. has had a good informant network in the Pakistani tribal territories for the last few years, especially in the Taliban heartland of North and South Waziristan. This is a relatively small area (11,500 square kilometers) of mountains and forests along the Afghan border.