U.S. may widen strikes in Pakistan( Take that Robert Spencer!!

(HH here: As I keep telling my conservative friends…Obama seems to be using the old Speak softly but carry a big stick…and he doesn’t seem to be afraid to use it. Which should do wonders in mending the attitude of the Iranians. If they see that Obama is not afraid to flex the military option then they might become more reasonable about nukes.)

By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt Published: March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

According to senior administration officials, two of the 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.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies.

The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan where recent fighting has been the fiercest. There remains fear within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions. Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty.

But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both General David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.

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