Advisors tell Obama to expand covert war inside Pakistan



Reports are emerging today that the Obama White House is considering intensifying US covert operations and CIA drone airstrikes deep inside Pakistan. If carried out, these operations will be taking place in Pakistan’s vast Baluchistan province, and would represent a major escalation in the so-called “war on terrorism”. Until now, strikes by US unmanned drones, operated by the CIA, have been strictly limited to Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border. But The New York Times report that “at least 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 include Baluchistan. Additionally, the paper reports that several of the President’s advisors favor “conduct[ing] cross-border ground actions [deep inside Pakistan], using CIA and Special Operations commandos”. US intelligence analysts believe that Pakistan’s vast Baluchistan province is rapidly becoming a major sanctuary for al-Qaeda commanders, who are gradually leaving Pakistan’s border areas and moving toward the country’s interior. Moreover, the predominantly Pashtun province, which is widely considered the ethnic homeland of the Afghan Taliban, is said to be the hiding place of Mullah Muhammad Omar, who until 2001 headed the Supreme Council of Afghanistan under the Taliban. Pakistani government officials reacted sharply to this morning’s reports, saying that they view “such attacks as counterproductive [because t]hey involve collateral damage and they are not helpful in our efforts to win hearts and minds”. Interestingly, US officials have reportedly acknowledged that missile strikes or other covert raids in Baluchistani towns, most of which are surrounded by “teeming Afghan settlements and refugee camps […] would carry high risks of civilian casualties”. But one “senior [Obama] administration official” insists that “there is wide agreement [among Obama’s advisers] to sustain and continue these covert programs”, despite the high potential for civilian casualties. Sources indicate that Barack Obama is expected to make a decision in the next few days.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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