Washington: Since 2004, the Pentagon has used broad, secret authority to carry out about 12 attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, The New York Times reported on its website on Sunday.
Quoting what it said were at least six unnamed military and intelligence officials and senior Bush administration policymakers, the newspaper said the military operations were authorized by a classified order signed by former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the approval of President George W. Bush.
Under the order, the military had new authority to strike the Al Qaeda network anywhere in the world and a broader mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the US, according to The New York Times. Despite the order, each mission required high-level government approval, the newspaper reported.
The order identified 15-20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states, where Al Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior official told the newspaper. Spokesmen for the White House, the defence department and the military declined comment when The New York Times contacted them.