- Associated Press
Thursday, October 13, 2011

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN U.S. drone-fired missiles killed a ranking member of the Haqqani Network on Thursday in northwestern Pakistan, striking a militant group that Washington claims is the No. 1 threat in Afghanistan and is supported by Pakistani security forces, local intelligence officials said.

The strike came as Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived in Pakistan to improve ties between Washington and Islamabad that have been severely strained by stepped-up U.S. claims of Pakistan assistance to the Haqqanis.

Two other militants were killed in the attack close in the Haqqani stronghold of North Waziristan, the group’s main sanctuary along the Afghan border, said Pakistani officials in the region.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. They identified the Haqqani member as Jalil and said he was a “coordinator” for the group.

The three men were walking down a street when the two missiles hit, the officials said. One said Jalil was related to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the network.

The missiles hit close to Dande Darpa Khel village, which is home to a large seminary with links to the Haqqanis.

Later Thursday, another pair of drone-fired missiles hit a militant position on hills close to the frontier in South Waziristan, killing six people, intelligence officials said. They said the militants were firing rockets and mortars across the border at an American base in Machadad Kot.

U.S. officials do not talk about the CIA-led drone program. NATO and U.S. officers in Afghanistan were not immediately available for comment.

The al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network is one of most organized insurgent factions fighting the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and it has been blamed for high-profile assaults against Western and Afghan targets in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Washington has long urged Islamabad to attack the fighters, who live undisturbed in North Waziristan despite the region being home to several thousand Pakistani troops.

At the same time, the U.S. is pursuing the possibility of peace talks with the Haqqanis and other Taliban factions, reflecting the fact that the insurgency can’t be defeated militarily.

In brief remarks to reporters, Mr. Grossman, whose mission is to promote the peace process, talked about his confidence that the U.S. and Pakistan “can make a commitment” to work together in the future, suggesting work still needs to be done to restore the relationship.

Last month, senior U.S. officials accused Pakistan’s spy agency of assisting the Haqqani Network in attacks on Western targets in Afghanistan, including a strike last month on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Pakistani officials have denied the charges.

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