Today’s Pakistan Drone Strike Targeted Khost Blast Key Figure in CIA Revenge Killing

Will the drone pilot get the $5 million reward?

Will the drone pilot get the $5 million reward?

The latest CIA drone strike in North Waziristan is described by Reuters as having killed the number two figure in the Pakistan Taliban group known as the TTP. This strike was a first on many fronts. It was the first since the election of a new government in Pakistan, with new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif slated to take office next week, the first since President Barack Obama’s drone rules speech and the first strike in Pakistan since the Peshawar High Court ruled that US drone strikes in Pakistan are war crimes.

Despite public pronouncements by both the caretaker interim government and the incoming Prime Minister that they oppose CIA drone strikes, this strike is likely to produce less official backlash since the TTP has a long history of attacking both military and civilian targets inside Pakistan. But the CIA had their own reason to target this particular figure. From the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, we have this description of Wali Ur Rehman (pdf):

Wali Ur Rehman, is second in command and chief military strategist of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He commands TTP members in South Waziristan. He has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against U.S. and NATO personnel, and is wanted in connection with his involvement in the murder of seven American citizens on December 30, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.

Shortly after the devastating attack in Khost, the CIA vowed revenge:

The CIA yesterday vowed to avenge the deaths of seven of its agents who were killed in a suicide bombing on Wednesday in Afghanistan, as it emerged that the bomber may have been invited on to the base as a potential informant according to two former US officials.

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” a US intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

It would appear that the CIA has now exacted that revenge, subject, of course, to the usual caveats that key figures targeted in drone strikes often have a way of popping up later unharmed. Gosh, I wonder if that was Mr. Moral Rectitude himself who gave that anonymous quote about revenge to the Guardian back when he was an “intelligence official” inside the White House instead of his current job running the CIA.

Update: I have been reminded on Twitter and elsewhere that in his speech last week, Obama said “America does not take strikes to punish individuals“. That seems to run in direct opposition to the vow from the CIA to avenge Khost and Ur Rheman’s accused role in that attack resulting in today’s attack.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

16 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    Not sure how State calls the killing of 7 CIA people involved in drone killing “murder.”

    It’s high time for the narrative on the Khost attack to change. If CIA is going to be killing people, it becomes a legitimate target.

  2. P J Evans says:

    And vengeance as a motive for killing more people isn’t going to help. It’s more likely to keep the cycle going.
    When did lack of thought become a requirement for government appointments?

  3. klynn says:

    We take losses.

    The Taliban (even though a religio-political movement), now has a martyr to admire and build religious anger. Not a loss, really. More like a gain in terms of giving a reason to use for recruitment.

    I am awaiting the “effective strategy” of drones to be explained. As of now, we take out key figures as well as innocent casualties, (splash zone casualties.) Both strike results create “righteous anger” based justification for the cohorts of those killed. This is a very strong driver to continue to plot against the United States.

    So again, what is the strategy?

  4. john francis lee says:

    Keeping the cycle going is the whole point. Getting the American sheeple inured to the routine crimes of ‘our’ government, now institutionalized as the world’s sole remaining Supercriminal … above the law around the world. But, ‘sniff, sniff’, agonized over its Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde legal dissonance.

    The united states government has torn up our US Constitution and is an illegitimate rogue state. And a murderous one. No one is safe.

  5. Snoopdido says:

    According to the Washington Post’s story (

    “Three children were reportedly hurt in Wednesday’s attack, which was the first known targeted strike on Pakistani soil in six weeks.”

    So much for this part of Obama’s recent address (

    “And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”

  6. GKJames says:

    Hasn’t it been thus since 2001? Their thugs against ours. Ours just happen to be better at selling themselves as the more virtuous ones. No word, presumably, on the number of collaterals taken out in the process?

  7. greengiant says:

    @Snoopdido: Obama may only have been talking about “above board” drone strikes. The super secret drone strikes MO may not have changed. War toy manifesto, if we have it we use it. The statistical significance of signature strikes and “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed or injured is no doubt completely lost on most of those in the command and decision train.
    That thought assumes the operations are more sophisticated than the helicopter audio video that sliced and diced Reuters reporters and civilians as revealed from wikileaks and Bradley Manning.

  8. Jim White says:

    @ess emm: I was hoping someone would notice the resemblance. That photo looks so much like the old dress-up photos of Dana that I did a double-take the first time I saw it.

  9. joanneleon says:

    Interesting. I wonder if this is it or if there are others they are still hunting. Zero Dark Thirty dedicates a significant amount of time to the Khost incident, and they talk about it in HBO’s documentary, Manhunt, too. As others have mentioned, this kind of revenge killing could go back and forth for many years. It’s been 4 years since Khost.

  10. Roman Berry says:

    @P J Evans: Right. Vengeance is a vicious circle of “I hurt you because you hurt me, and you hurt me because I hurt you.”. Lather, rinse, repeat. Someone has to stop in order for it to stop. (Sounds stupid, but it’s the truth.)

  11. gcwall says:

    The CIA and Joint Chiefs are supposed to serve in an advisory capacity, not as the final word on foreign policy decisions. The US has a civilian head of state for a reason. A civilian executive has many tools at his disposal and some advisers lean toward diplomatic solutions while others rely on force. For too long the US has relied on force that can be understood due to the desire for vengeance following 9/11, but that was a long time ago and cooler heads must prevail. It is time to stop giving an unknown enemy the cover of jihad when the reality is there are psychopaths among us who are nothing more than murderous criminals. There is nothing holy about murdering unarmed civilians, no matter which side is doing the killing.

  12. john francis lee says:

    U.S. drone kills Pakistan Taliban Number two: security officials

    They said seven people were killed and four wounded.

    “Tribesmen started rescue work an hour after the attack and recovered seven bodies,” said resident Bashir Dawar. “The bodies were badly damaged and beyond recognition.”

    [T]he Foreign Ministry again denounced drones in general on Wednesday.

    “The government has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” it said.

    The Great Poobah, Barack the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Serial Killer Obama, to Pakistan and the world :

    You think you run your country ? Well you don’t ! I do. And I’ll kill anyone in it who says different. You’ll never see it comin’. Ha, Ha, Ha.

  13. P J Evans says:

    @Roman Berry:
    I tend to describe it as ‘your granddaddy killed my daddy, so now I’m gonna kill you’. Or, an example closer to home, the Hatfields and the McCoys.

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