Daily brief: drone strike ‘misses’ top Pakistani Taliban leader

A near miss? The current leader of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was reportedly targeted in the seventh alleged U.S. drone strike in 2010 in the Shaktoi village in the Pasalkot region of North Waziristan earlier this morning, but three intelligence officials, four militants, and a spokesman for the militant group all said Hakimullah Mehsud ...

A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

A near miss?

The current leader of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was reportedly targeted in the seventh alleged U.S. drone strike in 2010 in the Shaktoi village in the Pasalkot region of North Waziristan earlier this morning, but three intelligence officials, four militants, and a spokesman for the militant group all said Hakimullah Mehsud had left the area before the strike and is alive and "completely safe," according to the spokesman, though around a dozen other suspected militants were killed (NYT, AP, AFP, AJE, Reuters, BBC, CNN, Dawn, Geo, Pajhwok, AP). After Hakimullah's predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a U.S. drone in August 2009, it took the militant group weeks to confirm his death among apparent infighting over his succession -- a struggle during which Hakimullah was also reported killed.

The strike comes as U.S. Special Representative Amb. Richard Holbrooke is visiting Pakistan, including Islamabad and the Swat Valley, and attempting to calm tensions over the drone strikes and recent increased security measures for Pakistanis flying to the United States (AFP, Pajhwok, Dawn, Reuters, Geo, Dawn, The News). And dozens of Pakistani Taliban attacked a military outpost in Mohmand on Tuesday, killing one paramilitary soldier (AFP).

A near miss?

The current leader of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was reportedly targeted in the seventh alleged U.S. drone strike in 2010 in the Shaktoi village in the Pasalkot region of North Waziristan earlier this morning, but three intelligence officials, four militants, and a spokesman for the militant group all said Hakimullah Mehsud had left the area before the strike and is alive and "completely safe," according to the spokesman, though around a dozen other suspected militants were killed (NYT, AP, AFP, AJE, Reuters, BBC, CNN, Dawn, Geo, Pajhwok, AP). After Hakimullah’s predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a U.S. drone in August 2009, it took the militant group weeks to confirm his death among apparent infighting over his succession — a struggle during which Hakimullah was also reported killed.

The strike comes as U.S. Special Representative Amb. Richard Holbrooke is visiting Pakistan, including Islamabad and the Swat Valley, and attempting to calm tensions over the drone strikes and recent increased security measures for Pakistanis flying to the United States (AFP, Pajhwok, Dawn, Reuters, Geo, Dawn, The News). And dozens of Pakistani Taliban attacked a military outpost in Mohmand on Tuesday, killing one paramilitary soldier (AFP).

Casualties

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a market in Dihrawud in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, killing up to 20 including several children, during a busy shopping time (Dawn, BBC, AP, AFP, CNN, Pajhwok). And a suicide bomber attacked a police patrol in a marketplace in Musa Qala in Helmand province, but managed to kill only himself earlier today (NYT, AFP, Pajhwok). As reported yesterday, the United Nations released a report finding that 2009 was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since 2001, with the Taliban responsible for the "vast majority" of the deaths (NYT, Wash Post, LAT, NYT, WSJ, UNAMA).

Four U.S. troops and one French soldier were killed in separate incidents across Afghanistan yesterday, bringing the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in 2010 to 14 (BBC, AP, AFP). Roadside bombs are the top killer of U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, and a campaign to use fingerprinting technology to identify bomb-makers in southern Afghanistan is underway (Globe and Mail).

Training forces

Sen. Carl Levin, the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters yesterday, on the first visit by Senate Democrats to Afghanistan since the Obama administration announced that it will send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to the country, that Afghanistan faces a major shortage of military trainers needed to help stand up the Afghan security forces — saying that the U.S. only has "about 37 percent of the trainers" needed (AP, McClatchy, Reuters, Politico). Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is also on the trip.

Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, who heads NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan, said earlier today that the Pentagon has authorized the expansion of training the Afghan security forces, in order to increase the Afghan National Army from its current size of 102,400 personnel to 171,600 by October 2011, and the Afghan National Police from 96,800 to 134,000 in 2011 (NYT). Previously, the ANA’s goal was 159,000 soldiers and the ANP’s 123,000 policemen by 2011.

The Times of London reports on a planned restructuring of international forces in southern Afghanistan, with U.S. troops set to take a "dominant role" from the British in Regional Command South with the planned influx of additional U.S. forces (Times of London). Tom Coghlan writes that RC-South, "which switches annually between Britain, the Netherlands and Canada with a permanent American deputy commander — will be replaced by two division-sized commands of about 30,000 servicemen each in the southeast and southwest."

Help from the neighbors

The government of Iran is planning to construct three schools in Afghanistan’s southern Ghazni province (Pajhwok). Each will cost around $230,000 and have 14 rooms.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.