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'New York Times' Says Obama Weighing Wider Covert War in Pakistan


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the United States is concerned about Taliban activity in and around Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southern Baluchistan province.

Gates was responding to a report published in Wednesday's New York Times newspaper that says the Obama administration is debating whether to expand its covert military strikes against Islamic militant bases in Pakistan to include Baluchistan.

The defense secretary also said the United States believes the problem of Islamic extremism is principally a problem for the Pakistanis to solve. He added the United States is willing to help the Pakistani government do that.

The New York Times story says two high-level reports seen at the White House call for expanding American forces' targets far beyond Pakistan's tribal areas on the Afghan border to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around Quetta. Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led Afghanistan's deposed Taliban government, is believed to have operated out of Baluchistan for years.

The Pakistan government says it hopes the United States will not opt for expanding its drone attacks, saying they have not achieved their objectives.

President Obama is reviewing U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an outline is expected later this month at an international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague.

The New York Times reports that many of Mr. Obama's advisers are urging him to continue the Bush administration's policy of attacking Islamic bases in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Pakistan has condemned the attacks, calling them counter-productive. The United States has repeatedly pressured the Pakistani government to do more to root out terrorist bases.

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