WASHINGTON is at its game of using pressure tactics against Islamabad once again to compel it to take firmer action against militants. President Barack Obama referred to its civilian authority as "very fragile" in unmistakably clear terms last Wednesday. As he answered questions at a press conference he addressed on the completion of 100 days in office, President Obama felt "gravely concerned" at its inability to deliver. Nevertheless, he had expressed confidence that its nuclear arsenal was secure mainly because "the Pakistan Army, I think, recognises the hazards of those weapons falling into wrong hands". He added that the US was, however, ready to secure them in a worst-case scenario. These views were deeply resented and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reacted strongly and took issue with him. President Obama might have succeeded in alarming the world about an imminent collapse of the civilian government, though there was little basis for making such an assumption, but at the same time he evoked strong resentment among Pakistanis. Many of them believe that the acquisition of Pakistan's nuclear assets was also on Washington's agenda, apart from dealing with the terrorist menace. President Obama's views were put down to pressure tactics for Islamabad to prove its credentials by taking stronger action against the militants. Now comes a complete volte face. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke puts the blame on the media for giving the 'wrong impression', "This is journalistic garbage. This is journalistic gobbledygook", and has expressed full confidence in the government's ability to deliver. He has held out the assurance that the US supported the democratically elected President Asif Zardari, who, he said, would be one of the first foreign heads of state to visit the White House since President Obama's taking office. He gave all sorts of arguments in support of the view that Washington believed in the Pakistan government's viability to deliver, like the successful Friends of Pakistan meeting at Tokyo and the Kerry-Lugar bill. However, Mr Obama's words, expressing views about its fragility in plain and simple terms, would continue to jar on Pakistanis' ears. In a latest interview with CNN, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates talks of the expanding reach of the militants in the northwestern Pakistan, posing an "existential threat" to Islamabad. It is a pity that the US has failed to appreciate Islamabad's legitimate reservations about taking armed action against militants who are from among its own population. Pakistan has to take into account the local sensitivities and the expected backlash of a ruthless military operation. Yet wherever necessary, it has not hesitated to move in full force. Armed action must be the last resort. It must try out other options.