DATTA KHEL, Pakistan — This was once an oasis of calm, a peaceful town in a region famous worldwide for its lawlessness and violence. But in 2007, all that changed when Datta Khel became the primary target of unmanned U.S. drones armed with hellfire missiles.
Even with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden outside of Islamabad on May 2, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials believe this town is the command and control center for members of Al Qaeda and its remaining senior leadership. It is also, they say, home to the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan militant group that has launched continuous attacks on U.S. and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.
Many of these militants have poured into Datta Khel, which borders northeastern Afghanistan, and the nearby town of Mir Ali in recent years as they have fled Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley.