Wednesday, March 18, 2009
President Barack Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the covert U.S. war in Pakistan far beyond the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Two high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to reach the Taliban and other insurgent groups to a major sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta, the newspaper said on its website, citing senior administration officials.
Missile strikes by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province under the authority of Pakistan’s central government, and which is next to parts of Afghanistan where recent fighting has been fiercest, the newspaper website said.
Some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda to flee towards Quetta, making them more vulnerable, the Times said.
Pakistan objects to the missile strikes, saying they are not only a violation of its sovereignty but complicate its efforts to tackle militants.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said on Wednesday he was aware of the New York Times report.