Expressing public and private frustration with Pakistan, the Obama administration has unleashed the CIA to resume an aggressive campaign of drone strikes in Pakistani territory over the past few weeks, approving strikes that might have been vetoed in the past for fear of angering Islamabad.
Now, said a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity, the administration's attitude is, "What do we have to lose?"
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made clear the deteriorating relations with Islamabad on Thursday, saying the United States is "reaching the limits of our patience" because Pakistan has not cracked down on local insurgents who carry out deadly attacks on U.S. troops and others in neighboring Afghanistan.
"It is difficult to achieve peace in Afghanistan as long as there is safe haven for terrorists in Pakistan," Panetta said.
The CIA has launched eight Predator drone attacks since Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, was invited to attend the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago but refused to make a deal to reopen crucial supply routes.
"Obviously, something changed after Chicago," said a senior congressional aide in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I am only getting the official story, but even within the official story there is an acknowledgment that something has changed."