Will US drones start attacking Mullah Omar in Pakistan?
The Pakistani press is rife with reports that the US will expand its drone attacks into Balochistan Province where the Taliban leader is thought to be hiding.
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Are US Predator drones coming for Mullah Omar, the elusive, one-eyed leader of the Taliban? Mr. Omar has been in hiding since 2001, when US-led forces toppled his Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He remains one of the US military's top targets, along with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Legend says Omar fled to Balochistan province in Pakistan, which lies just miles from his former base in Kandahar, Southern Afghanistan. Today, one of Pakistan's most controversial rumors is that Omar is hiding in plain sight in or around Quetta, the province's capital, perhaps with the knowledge – and even support – of Pakistan's intelligence agency.
Such reports have never been proven. Neither have reports that US Predator drones may soon be targeting Omar and others in Balochistan. But discussion of such attacks is rife in the Pakistani press, fueled by reports in the international media.
US officials have confirmed that discussions are underway "in Congress and a lot of different places, to expand the area" where drones may attack, including to Balochistan province, reports the Associated Press.
The AP adds that Balochistan has become more a focus for discussions of expanded targets, given its "central role in stoking the Afghan insurgency." US intelligence and military officials believe that funding, planning, and fighters for the insurgency in Afghanistan, particularly in the South, are coordinated by Omar from his Pakistani hideout.
Potential drone strikes in Balochistan would seek to complement President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Many of those new soldiers would be facing off against Taliban fighters in the South.