The White House on Wednesday declined to confirm reports of a drone attack that may have killed the No. 2 commander in the Pakistani Taliban.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said “we are not in the position to confirm the reports of Waliur Rehman's death,” while adding that if the reports were true it would deprive the Pakistani Taliban of its chief military strategist.
Carney noted that Rehman had participated in cross-border attacks on U.S. and NATO troops and was wanted for murder in connection to 2009 attack in Afghanistan where seven CIA operatives were killed.
The attack would come less than a week after President Obama outlined new guidelines for U.S. drone policy, including new standards for when the U.S. would target militants.
Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing Wednesday that the more transparent policy “does not mean that we would be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation.”
“It does mean that there are standards in place that are public and available for every American to review,” he said.
The suspected U.S. drone strike occurred Wednesday in Pakistan’s tribal region, in which Rehman was reportedly killed. The Pakistani Taliban, however, denied his death.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was “serious concerns” over the drone strike in North Waziristan.
Carney defended drone strikes in the region Wednesday, saying that they will continue in the Afghan war theater to support U.S. troops until the Afghan security transition is complete in 2014.
Obama laid out a policy last week of only striking when there is a “continuing, imminent” threat.
“That means we will continue to take strikes against high-value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces,” Carney said.
“By the end of 2014 we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes. So I think that it's important to look at what the president said within context of the Afghan war theater operations.”