The Obama administration is considering using Predator drones for the first time to strike beyond the tribal area inside Pakistan. While many are uncomfortable with the idea of unmanned aircraft firing missiles into the city of Quetta—a Taliban hotbed of 850,000 people—in a US-allied nation, some American officials see it as the only way to pressure Pakistan into rooting out the Taliban. With only 18 months to turn the tide in Afghanistan, the decapitation of the "Quetta Shura" is considered crucial.
"If we don't do this—at least have a real discussion of it—Pakistan might not think we are serious," said a leading US military figure. Drone attacks currently only target rural villages in Afghanistan, and the expansion of the imprecise weapons into an urban would mean more civilian casualties. But unless Pakistan backs the plan, US attacks will be viewed as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. "We are not a banana republic," one official tells the Los Angeles Times. If the drones cross the border, "this might be the end of the road," he added.