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US may expand covert war in Pak: Report

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 NYT newspaper said on its website, citing senior administration officials.

world Updated: Mar 18, 2009 11:38 IST

US President Barack Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the covert US 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 toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable, the Times said.

Pakistan has complained that the missile strikes violate its sovereignty.

Many of Obama's advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by former President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas, and to conduct cross-border ground actions, using CIA and Special Operations commandos.

The Times said a spokesman for the National Security Council had declined to provide details, saying only "We're still working hard to finalize the review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that the president requested."

No other official would talk on the record on the issue, citing the administration's deliberations and the politically volatile nature of strikes into Pakistan's territory, the report said.