According to the Indian wire service PTI, a drone dropped two missiles on a Taliban safe house in Pakistan, near the Afghan border. The attack killed twelve people, including Maulvi Obaidullah, a senior Taliban commander. Several “foreigners”, which usually refers to al-Qaeda terrorists, also died in the attack. A Taliban spokesman confirmed the attack but did not address the results:
At least a dozen militants, including foreigners, were killed today in a missile strike on a Taliban commander’s compound in Pakistan’s restive Bajaur Agency bordering Afghanistan.
Local residents said a pilotless drone fired two guided missiles at the compound of Taliban commander Maulvi Obaidullah in the Damadola area of Bajaur Agency late tonight.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar confirmed the attack but did not give details. Locals said Taliban fighters cordoned off Obaidullah’s home and madrassa after the missile strike and did not allow people to approach the area.
Obaidullah served as Defense Minister during the Taliban’s reign of terror in Afghanistan. Known better as Mullah Obaidullah, he won his release from Pakistan along with other senior Taliban figures last November. Pakistan traded him for hundreds of their soldiers that the Taliban had captured in the frontier regions. The US considered him one of the closest Taliban associates to Osama bin Laden and badly wanted him dead or alive.
The demise of Obaidullah will create many ripples, especially for the Pakistan government. The Taliban didn’t trade for Obaidullah just to see him decorate the countryside, courtesy of an American missile attack. This will affect the ongoing negotiations between native Taliban elements and the new Pakistani government, although precisely in the manner desired by the US.
Strategically and tactically, the Taliban will have a huge setback with Obaidullah’s loss. This isn’t a field commander with a few dozen terrorists under his control; Obaidullah sat at the top of the food chain. The attack suggests that American intel has improved considerably, which may make the rest of the top level of the Taliban nervous enough to start pulling a few Crazy Ivans to ensure that they haven’t suddenly appeared on the radar screen as well. That will create confusion and a need to revamp their communications, which could open more opportunities for American drones.
Update: According to Bill Roggio, this may be a different Obaidullah, a local commander rather than the former defense minister. Dawn is reporting the deceased in that manner.