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US pushing to expand drone strikes to Quetta : report

Top American officials are pushing to expand predator drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta to put pressure on the Pakistan government to pursue Taliban leaders based in the city.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2009 13:12 IST

Top American officials are pushing to expand predator drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta to put pressure on the Pakistan government to pursue Taliban leaders based in the city.

The US officials have also given the Pakistan government and army a list of eighteen top Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar who it wants to be targeted in a show of urgency in dismantling the so-called 'Quetta shura', the Los Angeles Times reported.

The proposal has opened a contentious new front in the clandestine war, the paper reported saying that the prospects of Predator aircraft strikes in Quetta signals a new US resolve to decapitate the Taliban. But it also risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad.

The concern has created tension among officials in the Obama administration over whether unmanned aircraft strikes in a city of 850,000 are a realistic option, but proponents including some military leaders argue that attacking the Taliban in Quetta is critical to the success of the revised war strategy.

But others, including high-ranking US intelligence officials, have been more sceptical of employing drone attacks in a place that Pakistanis see as part of their country's core, the report said.

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