The US says getting Osama bin Laden "has been and remains a top priority" and it would not hesitate to strike at targets within Pakistan notwithstanding protests emanating from Islamabad.
"We retain the option of acting on actionable intelligence. But we also retain the option of working with our allies to do the same," White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Monday discounting suggestions that US planned to invade Pakistan.
"I think there has been this notion afoot, or at least an attempt or an inclination somehow we're going to invade Pakistan," he said responding to a question about Islamabad's reported concern that Bush administration officials are leaving the door open to military strikes within their borders.
"We always maintain the option of striking actionable targets, but we also realise that Pakistan is a sovereign government and a very important player in the war on terror," Snow added.
"The Pakistanis certainly are valued allies and, again, they have also been taking a lead and moving aggressively into the areas and trying to deal with the problems," he said asserting Islamabad's efforts to revive a collapsed peace plan in its tribal areas "does not dent" US confidence in their commitment.
Asked when getting bin Laden is a top priority why has it taken 10 months for US to realise that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's plan was not working, Snow said, "The fact is that you are working with the sovereign government of Pakistan, which had a plan to reach out to tribal leaders.
"And over time it became clear that what was happening is that it had been abused by members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to find safe haven. I think when that becomes obvious, then you deal with it.
"I think the Pakistanis have done the same. You now have 80,000 troops in the region. You've seen them moving in, you've seen them taking casualties. So it also relies on collaboration and assessment involving the Pakistanis," Snow said.
"There were a number of efforts going on. You may have people who have given encouraging signs and don't follow through on them. The fact is that we've made our determinations and the Pakistanis have made their determinations and they've adjusted," Snow said in response to another question.
He said US was not being aggressive "because Pakistan is a sovereign government, and furthermore, we've made it clear that we will offer whatever assistance, technical and otherwise, they have.
"What you're asking is, does the US need to take unilateral action. We are working in coordination with the Pakistani government," he said without answering the question in so many words.
Reminded of President George W Bush's assertion for years that he would go after anyone harbouring terrorists, Snow said, "We still maintain our position. We retain the option of acting on actionable intelligence. But we also retain the option of working with our allies to do the same."