February 2nd, 2010
05:16 PM ET

Researchers: U.S. escalated drone strikes in Pakistan in recent weeks

The United States has escalated its unmanned aircraft strikes at militant targets in Pakistan since seven Americans were killed in a December 30 suicide attack at a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan, statistics from two informed research outlets show.

And analysts believe "revenge" could be a top motivator.

A forthcoming study from the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, said there have been 64 strikes since President Obama took office, 51 in 2009 and 13 in 2010. Fourteen of them occurred since the late December CIA suicide attack, it said.

There were 45 such attacks during the Bush administration, with most occurring since August 2008, said Peter Bergen, a fellow at the foundation and CNN terror analyst, and Katherine Tiedemann, a foundation policy analyst. FULL POST

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Filed under: Drone strikes • Pakistan
February 2nd, 2010
03:54 PM ET

Who is Sirajuddin Haqqani?

Sirajuddin Haqqani, or Siraj Haqqani, is a senior Taliban commander and leader of the Haqqani network, which was founded by his father Jalaladin Haqqani. A long-time ally of al Qaeda, the group operates on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and is well known to the U.S. military.

Haqqani has been a part of attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. In news interviews, he has claimed planning the April 2008 assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the 2008 attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed six people, including a U.S. citizen, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. Last year,  the U.S. State Department announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Haqqani.

In 2008, a U.S. missile strike on the Haqqani compound killed Haqqani family members including wives and children. In July 2009, an American soldier and three Afghan soldiers were captured by low-level militants and then quickly "sold" to Haqqani.

Haqqani was born around 1973. The elder Haqqani, Jalaladin, was among the mujahadeen fighters who received U.S. help to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

RELATED: Drone strike targeted Sirajuddin Haqqani

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Filed under: al Qaeda • Haqqani • Pakistan • Taliban
February 2nd, 2010
10:38 AM ET

Sources: Suspected drone strikes kill 29 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -  Several suspected U.S. drone strikes killed at least 29 people in Pakistan on Tuesday, Pakistani intelligence sources said. One of the strikes targeted Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, a group based in Pakistan that targets U.S. forces and their allies in neighboring Afghanistan, said a Pakistan political source who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the news media. (Related: Who is Sirajuddin Haqqani?)

A commander of the group who spoke on the condition of anonymity told CNN that Haqqani "is alive and was not in the area at the time of the attack."

The reported strikes were unusual for the relatively high number of missiles fired - at least 17, intelligence sources said - and for the high death toll.  FULL POST


Filed under: Pakistan
February 2nd, 2010
09:42 AM ET

5 American terror suspects: We're being tortured in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan  - Five Americans arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terror attacks claimed again Tuesday they are being tortured in jail. The suspects wrote their claims on tissue paper that they threw to reporters from a van that drove them to a court hearing.

"Since our arrest, the U.S.A., FBI, and Pakistani police have tortured us. They are trying to set us up. We are innocent. They are trying to keep us away from the public, media, our families and our lawyer. Help us!" The note contained the first names of all five suspects. FULL POST


Filed under: Pakistan
February 2nd, 2010
07:39 AM ET

Experts: Time ripe for Taliban talks

The Taliban may have reached the peak of their military achievements in the war in Afghanistan, one of the world's top authorities on the Taliban said.

And that position of relative strength might make them more amenable to talks, Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid said in an interview Monday with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"They can't go much further than where they are now," Rashid said. "They're across the country. They're having shadow governors and shadow government in all the major provinces, but they can't take the cities because of NATO firepower. They can't create a populist movement against the Americans. They tried and failed to do that."

"So in a way," Rashid added, "the Taliban are in a very strong position, which actually might make them more amenable for talks right now."

Read more from the interview on "Amanpour"


Filed under: London conference • Taliban
February 2nd, 2010
07:27 AM ET

NATO's third largest force in Afghanistan changing its strategy

Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan - Behind the U.S. and Great Britain, Germany has the third highest number of troops in Afghanistan and commands NATO’s operations in the north of the country. Around 4,500 German soldiers are currently stationed in Mazar-e Sharif, Faisabad and Kunduz, where they face a growing Taliban insurgency. In the run-up to the Afghanistan conference in London last week, Germany committed 500 additional soldiers to the International Security Assistance Force.

But the country has also promised a massive shift in its strategy toward a training and mentoring force that will join the Afghan army in combat. I was in Mazar-e Sharif recently to see the soldiers gear up for their new mode of operating.  FULL POST