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
President Obama is reviewing U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an outline is expected later this month (March 31st) 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.