The Bush Administration has rejected suggestions that the United States is "stage-managing" the internal politics of Pakistan, and defended Islamabad's failure to rein in militants in the country's lawless tribal areas, saying the military was making "real efforts" against extremism.
"I would certainly take exception to the idea that the United States is somehow stage-managing, guiding or otherwise telling Pakistanis how to run their own internal affairs," State Department Deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.
"The decisions on Pakistan's political future are going to be made by Pakistanis," Casey said, adding the US only gives free advice, "offered freely among friends".
On reports of extremists gaining strength in the country, particularly in the frontier regions, the spokesman said the US recognises and respects the fact that the Pakistani military is making real efforts against extremism.
"There's a clear sense that the government of Pakistan is committed to working with the US and with other partners to confront extremism, including in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. No Pakistani government has ever really had full authority over the FATA. So this is not simply a case of lack of will or lack of desire to confront extremism but it's a difficult situation," Casey maintained.
"And if you look at the number of Pakistani soldiers who have been killed or injured in some of this fighting, it's clear that this is a real, live conflict, and one that they're actively fighting and actively engaged in," Casey said.
The spokesman, however, refused to gauge the success rate of the drive against extremism, saying "until someone gives me an appropriate level of military experience, I think I'll leave it up to the folks in the field running the military operations to comment on it".
He said the US was working not just with Pakistan but also with its neighbour Afghanistan through a "trilateral mechanism" to make sure that both countries are doing "everything they can to eliminate the threat" of extremism.