WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is considering widening missile strikes on al-Qaida and the Taliban inside Pakistan and is planning to bolster the training of Pakistan’s forces in a key border battleground where militants fuel the escalating Afghan insurgency, according to U.S. officials.
The officials said the stepped-up moves against the militant networks could extend the air strikes farther south, beyond the current target areas in Waziristan and into the western province of Baluchistan. U.S. special operations forces are also developing plans to expand their training of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps into that province.
President Barack Obama cited the war against al-Qaida as his main goal in a major address this week on his Afghan strategy but divulged no new details about how the U.S. would carry it out.
Nonetheless, there have been growing discussions in recent weeks about the need to expand the use of airborne missile-equipped drones into other volatile regions of Pakistan, broadening a covert CIA operation that has fueled anti-American sentiment in that country.
Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism, acknowledged that there have been “discussions, in Congress and a lot of different places, to expand the area” where the drone attacks are being conducted.