U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, part of a U.S. review of the drone program, according to officials involved, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Pakistani officials are seeking to broaden the scope of the program to target extremists who have carried out attacks against Pakistanis, a move they say could win domestic support. The Obama administration is weighing the effectiveness of the program against the risk that its unpopularity weakens an important ally.
Underlining the fragility of the situation, the U.S. believes Pakistan's top intelligence agency is directly supporting the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan, even as the U.S. targets those groups, says a person close to the deliberations.
The Central Intelligence Agency's drone program is important to Washington because areas of Pakistan remain a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration is reviewing how it uses missile strikes to target militants on the border, according to national-security officials, as part of a broad review of its strategy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The administration considers the program a success, and the program isn't expected to be significantly curtailed. But officials familiar with the review say it could change the pace and size of the program, and make some technical refinements in an effort to hit targets faster. The review seeks to determine under what circumstances drones should be used, the officials say.
The broader reassessment could be announced as soon as Friday, according to people familiar with the matter. The review is believed to address plans for increasing troops and combating drug trafficking in Afghanistan, as well as strategies for strengthening institutions of civil government and building the economies in both countries.
President Barack Obama has declared the war in Afghanistan is a key foreign-policy priority, and the U.S. is sending an additional 17,000 troops to amplify U.S. efforts there.
Spokesmen for the White House's National Security Council, which is conducting the review, and the CIA said they couldn't confirm or comment on the review.