Two U.S. drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — one on a military compound in Pakistan, and the other on a pickup truck in Afghanistan — have reportedly killed 11 Islamic militants, including a top Pakistani Taliban commander.
Missiles hit Khalid Mehsud, alias Khan Said Sajna, deputy chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as he was driving in Margha, Afghanistan. U.S. officials have labeled Sajna as a high-ranking commander of the Pakistani Taliban with close ties to the Afghan Taliban.
Three others died during the attack. All three were members of the Haqqani network, “a Sunni Islamist militant organization operating in the southeastern region of Afghanistan and the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan.”
According to Pakistani news source Geo TV, the TTP have officially confirmed that Sajna died in the attack, and have appointed Maulvi Khatir as his successor.
The second drone strike killed seven Islamic militants, who were in a compound on the Pakistani side of the border, in North Waziristan.
According to Reuters, officials from the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan did not have any information about the strikes.
The volatility of the region makes it difficult for journalists to verify any information about activity along the border.
Pakistani officials have voiced opposition to U.S. drone strikes.
Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan rose following New Year’s Day tweet by President Donald Trump, in which he wrote that the U.S. has “foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.” He accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”
Shortly thereafter, U.S. officials cut roughly $2 billion in aid to Pakistan.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Earlier this week, military officials announced that many of the troops withdrawn from Iraq have already been be relocated to Afghanistan.
In August, Trump introduced a new strategy for dealing with the conflict in Afghanistan, which includes sending an additional 4,000 troops. He warned that a “hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.”