Unmanned aircraft have begun targeting Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, a shift in strategy by the Obama administration that may reflect efforts to preempt a Taliban spring offensive against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Washington Times reports.
The U.S. military avoided hitting Mr. Mehsud's forces in 2007 and 2008, during the Bush administration, when the Taliban leader waged a campaign of suicide bombings inside Pakistan and humiliated the Pakistani army in his tribal stronghold near the Afghan border.
However, Mr. Mehsud formed an alliance last month with two other Taliban commanders in North and South Waziristan, a potentially significant development because territory controlled just by Mr. Mehsud does not touch the Afghan border. With the alliance, he now has an inlet to Afghanistan.
Sarfaraz Khan, a professor at the University of Peshawar, traced the new U.S. aggressiveness to the Taliban alliance.
"In order to stop unifying Taliban groups from launching massive attacks against NATO and in particular newly arriving U.S. troops in Afghanistan, such attacks have become indispensable on Americans' part," he said.
On Sunday, two missile strikes suspected to have come from U.S. drones killed up to 12 people and injured scores in a Mehsud stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal zone, a senior Pakistani official in the South Waziristan capital, Wana, told The Washington Times.