Washington: The death of Waliur Rehman, the second-in-command of the Pakistani Taliban in a drone strike if confirmed to be true would be a big blow to the outfit, the White House said today, adding the US would continue to use the CIA-operated spy planes in the Afghan war till 2014.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney at his daily news conference did not confirm the death of Rehman today in a US drone strike in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
He also did not specifically mention that the US would continue with the drone strikes in Pakistan, instead using the term `Afghan war theatre`, which many interpret as including the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Local media reports said Rehman was killed in a drone strike on a compound in the Chashma area of Miranshah in the North Waziristan tribal region along with close aide Fahkr-i-Alam and five others, including Uzbek militants.
"We are not in a position to confirm the reports of Waliur Rehman`s death," Carney said.
"If those reports were true, or prove to be true, it`s worth noting that his demise would deprive the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, of its second-in-command and chief military strategist," he said.
"Waliur Rehman has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against US and NATO personnel and horrific attacks against Pakistani civilians and soldiers.
And he is wanted in connection with the murder of seven American citizens on December 30th, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan," Carney said.
"While I am not in a position to confirm the reports of his death, it`s important to note who this individual is," he said and declined to comment on the operational matter or individual cases.
The Taliban have denied Rehman`s death and it could not be independently confirmed as most of North Waziristan is controlled by Taliban warlords.
This was the first missile strike since Pakistan`s landmark general elections on May 11 and the announcement of a new policy for the use of drones by President Barack Obama.