The second tier of the superpower's policymakers has expressed the view that the US should revise its policy of restraint in pursuing militants, who are crossing back into Pakistan's tribal region after committing acts of terrorism in Afghanistan, and hit them even if that requires the intrusion of ground forces into its territory. While saner voices in the administration are warning against further destabilisation of the government that the move could entail, the Afghan Ambassador at Washington has, understandably, picked up the thread and supported the idea. The fact is that the Americans have shown little regard for the sensitivities of its "key ally" and have been bombing villages located on its soil on suspicion that "high-value" Al-Qaeda operatives were hiding there. A seminary was hit on the unproven ground that it was serving as a training site for militants. To the civilian casualties occurring as a consequence of these attacks was added the loss of 12 paramilitary troops whose post was recently targeted. But the arrogant Americans have not even offered regrets. According to news channel ABC, 'the so-called deputies committee' comprising No 2 officials at the State, Defence and intelligence agencies, which recommended hot pursuit, believes that "given the possibility that political fragmentation in Pakistan is going to continue" there is need for this radical shift in policy. Apparently, these officials assumed that as the Pakistani leadership is deeply involved in settling internal political scores, it was incapable of adopting a decisive stance towards the militants, who were proving troublesome for the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, and that this attitude was not likely to change even after these internal issues had been put out of the way because of disagreement among the coalition partners on how to deal with the menace. They must have concluded that under the circumstances, it was desirable for the US itself to take up the job. These American officials would not expect Islamabad, with its nascent political set-up struggling to find its feet and eager to remain in the US good books, to react forcefully. They must have also considered the point that in case of direct military intervention into Pakistan's territory there would be severe backlash at the public level in the form of increased anti-American feelings as well as resentment against the country's government with the implication of strong suspicion of its prior consent or connivance. However, the deputies committee would not let public sentiment in Pakistan or its adverse repercussions for the government interfere with its thinking. Besides, it is no secret that in the eyes of Washington, the pursuit of policies designed to bring down hatred of the US is only secondary to its passion for the elimination of militancy that, it believes, requires a firm, aggressive approach. The radical shift the administration officials are advocating is obviously prompted by the following considerations. The US is quite upset at the much stronger resistance the occupying forces in Afghanistan are meeting this summer. It is unhappy with Pakistan at not toeing its line to the letter and for pulling its punches while fighting the militants in the tribal belt. It gives little weight to Pakistan's contention that the area is highly sensitive where it has to tread with great care and to its plea that monitoring the border - 2,600km long, tricky and mountainous - to check the infiltration of militants was also the responsibility of NATO-led and Afghan troops. The radical shift is also an acknowledgement of the US helplessness before some major NATO allies, which have persistently refused to send their forces to the troubled southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan. The Bush administration would do well to analyse the fall-out of direct military intervention not only for Pakistan but also for the US. The previous US strikes and the civilian deaths they had caused fuelled the feelings of revenge among the tribesmen and intensified hatred of the US countrywide that had served to refurbish the strength of anti-US militants. Physical intervention by the NATO forces would certainly be worse. If Mr Bush wants to give this as a parting shot of his presidency to Pakistan in the hope that it would boost the chances of the Republican presidential hopeful, he had better think again. Rather than compel the Pakistan government to intensify armed action, it would most likely weaken its resolve in an attempt to distance itself from the Americans. And if it fails to react against the US, it would face the prospect of destabilisation at the hands of protesting crowds, which would prove counterproductive to the US interests. The best course for Washington is to keep Islamabad abreast of intelligence about the "high value" catches and let it operate keeping the local sensitivities in mind. E-mail: