WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The White House has authorized an expansion of the CIA's unmanned drone aircraft program in Pakistan's tribal area, U.S. officials said.
The move to broaden the use of drones to attack suspected terrorist targets runs parallel to President Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Friday.
Discussions also are under way between U.S. and Pakistani officials about possibly conducting drone airstrikes beyond tribal regions into Pakistan's Baluchistan province, where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the newspaper said.
Reports about the drone campaign come largely from Pakistani media coverage since Washington officials don't comment on the covert operation, the Times said. Some accounts estimate several hundred civilians have died drone rocket attacks.
To correct what U.S. officials say is inaccurate information, a government official told the Times about 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years killed "more than 400" enemy fighters, and put civilian deaths in low double digits.
"We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists," the official said.