Another drone strike in the restive district takes aim at the Haqqani Network
On June 16, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reacting to a congressman’s accusation that Pakistan was linked to terrorism, announced an inter-agency review of U.S. funding and support to Pakistan. This occurs after a U.S. drone attack in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district on June 13 killed Abu Bakr Haqqani of the Haqqani Network. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the militant group is based on its soil and has condemned the most recent drone attack with Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa regretting that a “one-sided” act of territorial violation had been taken. Opposition political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has approved the Army chief’s response but preferred “action” against the attack.
In February 2016, drones killed five Haqqani Network terrorists near Hangu, “a powerful arm of the Afghan Taliban operating in Khost, Paktika, and Logar as well as in the Afghan capital, Kabul.” Earlier, Maulvi Ahmad Jan Akhund, a key commander of the Network died in a drone strike on Nov. 21, 2013, also in Hangu. He had been arrested and then released by Pakistan in 2010 along with several other senior members of the Quetta Shura.
As happened this month, the 2013 drones had attacked the settled area outside the tribal belt where Pakistan’s writ of the state is weak. Then-Army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani was outraged. PTI’s Imran Khan spearheaded a protest against drone strikes with popular support. He accused the CIA station chief in Islamabad of having planned and executed the Hangu attack and named him, forcing the U.S. embassy to extradite the outed spy back to the United States. (The gesture led the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to name Khan as their representative in the peace talks with Islamabad.) A week later the drones killed the Taliban chief Hakimullah in the tribal areas. Hangu remains the watering-hole of the Haqqanis to this day and the drones continue hitting in the settled areas despite Jemima Khan’s 2013 anti-drones film, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.