In Pakistan, US airstrike kills at least 8, but misses target

Frustration with such strikes is rising in Pakistan. On Thursday, the parliament called for making talks with militants the 'top priority.'

US military drones again fired at targets on Pakistani soil Thursday, in an apparent attempt to take out a prominent Taliban leader, while violence rippled across Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Thursday's strike comes just as Parliament, in a "landmark achievement on Wednesday ... finally approved a 14-point resolution....that sought an urgent review of the country's national security strategy and a revisit of the strategy to combat terrorism in order to restore peace and stability in Pakistan as well as in the region." Pakistan's The News reports.

The nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively," the resolution said.

Reports of casualties from Thursday's attack varied between news outlets. The New York Times said the missiles killed eight people in North Waziristan, a Taliban enclave, but missed their apparent target.

The dead were all militant fighters, according to residents of the village of Dande Darpakhel. But the missiles did not strike a compound in the village owned by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, an associate of Osama bin Laden. Mr. Haqqani was the presumed target of the attack....
According to American officials, the Haqqani family protects forces from Al Qaeda in their enclaves in North and South Waziristan, provides logistics and intelligence for Al Qaeda operatives, and acts as a link between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, who share the common mission of driving American and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn, reports that 11 were killed, according to a security official.

Locals are still looking for more people in the rubble,' he said. ...
Residents said that all of the victims were local tribesmen, adding that locals had fired at two suspected US drones hovering above.

US attacks on Pakistani soil, which are seen "as a sign of US frustration at Pakistan's approach to counter-terrorism," according to Britain's Guardian newspaper, have grown more frequent in recent months.

There have been about a dozen such attacks in the past two months, Reuters reports.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan, frustrated over growing cross-border attacks from the Pakistani side of the border, have carried out about a dozen missile strikes and a commando raid in Pakistan since the beginning of September.

Violence also erupted in the tribal area of Bajaur, where the Pakistani government is waging a full-scale military operation against militants, Reuters adds.

Separately, Pakistani artillery, backed by helicopter gunships, pounded militant positions in the Bajaur region overnight and early on Thursday, and residents and officials said nine militants were killed.

And in Swat, in North West Frontier Province, police on Wednesday found the bodies of several government paramilitaries that had gone missing, The Daily Times, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan, reported.

At least 15 paramilitary soldiers and five Taliban were found dead in Kabal tehsil of Swat on Wednesday.
The Frontier Constabulary troops had gone missing after a fight with Taliban that broke out on Tuesday after a roadside bomb targeted a paramilitary convoy in the Sarsenai area.

There was also bad news across the border in Afghanistan, where US troops accidentally killed members of the Afghan nation Army, the Washington Post reports.

Nine Afghan soldiers were killed and four others injured by a U.S. airstrike on an Afghan army checkpoint Wednesday in an apparent friendly-fire incident in eastern Afghanistan, according to Afghan and U.S. military officials.

The Post adds that this was not the first such controversial incident in recent months.

The apparent mistaken strike comes after a series of errant air operations that have stirred controversy in Afghanistan in recent months. On Monday, NATO officials said a joint investigation with the Defense Ministry determined that an airstrike on a Taliban compound in southern Helmand province last week killed a number of civilians, including several women and children. NATO officials said coalition troops called for air support after they came under heavy fire near the town of Nad Ali. NATO officials did not release the number of civilians killed, but Afghan government officials said shortly after the Oct. 16 airstrike that they believed at least 18 civilians were killed.

As Taliban violence has spiraled, Pakistan's new parliament, which formed in March, has urged the controversial tack of negotiating with the Taliban. During Thursday's closed-door parliamentary session, members of Parliament called "making talks with militants the top priority," the Guardian reports, adding

While saying dialogue "must now be the highest priority," it stipulates that talks should be pursued with those elements willing to follow the constitution and the rule of law.

On Wednesday, however, government members in both Afghanistan and Pakistan jointly announced that no such negotiations would take place, Pakistan's Daily Times reports.

The Pakistani and Afghan foreign ministers told a press conference on Wednesday the two countries agree on not holding talks with armed Taliban.
"Talks will be held with only those who are willing to lay down arms and those who live within the constitution," Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta said. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said other nations were coming around to Pakistan's multi-pronged counterterrorism strategy that said "no talks with militants but political dialogue with those who agree to live as peaceful citizens".
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