US drones take out top Haqqani Network leader

“The Americans had been after him for a long time," the official added. 

U.S. forces targeted a suspected safe house on the Ghulam Khan district in North Waziristan, where Zadran and other Haqqani operatives were based. 

North Waziristan is one of several areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border known for harboring terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Pakistan Taliban. 

Those areas are also reputed bases of operation for those groups to launch cross-border attacks against U.S. and allied forces in eastern Afghanistan. 

Friday's strike is one in a long string of armed drone strikes that have come to characterize America's ongoing counterterrorism campaign in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere around the world. 

Use of that controversial counterterrorism tactic has proven wildly successful but also fostered anger and condemnation from countries were the majority of the strikes take place. 

Specifically Pakistan claims the strikes are a clear violation of the country's sovereignty. 

Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry told Islamabad that Washington was considering curtailing the use of armed drones in the country, in an attempt to end those strikes in Pakistan altogether. 

"I think the [drone] program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it," Kerry said in an interview with Pakistani television in August. 

The Obama administration reacted quickly to Kerry's comments, saying his statements did not reflect a coming change in the use of armed drones against terrorist targets or overall U.S. counterterrorism policy. 

"Clearly the goal of counterterrorism operations, broadly speaking, is to get to a place where we don't have to use them, because the threat goes away," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at the time. 

However, she made clear that there was no plan to eliminate the drone program in the near future, or that the White House had a plan to phase out drone operations.