WASHINGTON, US (AFP) - The White House has authorized the CIA to expand the use of unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan to track down and strike suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members, the New York Times reported Friday.
The Times, citing unnamed sources, said that authorization to expand CIA drone usage in Pakistan's tribal areas came this week, coinciding with President Barack Obama's announcement Tuesday of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.
Washington is also talking with Pakistani officials about using the drones to strike in Baluchistan - a vast region outside of the tribal areas that borders Afghanistan and Iran - where Afghan Taliban leaders are reportedly hiding, the Times reported.
Analysts, intelligence agents and foreign officials have widely reported that Taliban fighters use Baluchistan as a base, crossing over the border into Afghanistan to and from the Taliban's spiritual capital of Kandahar.
The northwest Pakistan tribal region has seen a surge in the US strikes, which fan anti-Americanism in the nuclear-armed Muslim country, since Obama took office.
The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants but Islamabad publicly opposes as a violation of its sovereignty.