WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has launched the opening salvos of a new, more aggressive approach towards an Afghan insurgent group it asserts is supported by Pakistans government, The Washington Post reported quoting senior administration officials. A CIA drone strike Thursday killed three members of the Haqqani network, including a senior official, and additional strikes Friday left four insurgents dead. The attacks in Pakistan were carried out near Haqqani headquarters in the North Waziristan capital of Miranshah, a city rarely targeted in the past because of the difficulty of finding well-concealed insurgent leaders and the possibility of civilian deaths in an urban area. Early Saturday, drone-fired US missiles hit a compound in neighbouring South Waziristan, killing six suspected militants. Pakistani intelligence officials said the militants belonged to a group led by Maulvi Nazir, who is accused of working with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to direct cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. The decision to strike Miranshah was made at a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Obama two weeks ago and was intended to send a signal that the United States would no longer tolerate a safe haven for the most lethal enemy of US forces in Afghanistan, or Pakistans backing for it, said one of several US officials who spoke about internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity. The strikes were made possible by focusing intelligence collection to allow us to pursue certain priorities, the official said. The senior Haqqani figure, Janbaz Zadran, was selected along with other targets to demonstrate how seriously we take the Miranshah threat. Military options debated at the Sept 29 meeting were set aside for now, officials said, including the possibility of a ground operation against Haqqani leaders similar to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. Although the administration has left the raid option on the table, the potential negatives of such an operation - including the possible collapse of Pakistans military leadership and civilian government - are seen as far outweighing its benefits. Even as it cracks down on the Haqqani network, the White House has authorised more intensive reconciliation efforts with its leaders and those of other Afghan insurgent groups, leaving open a track initiated in August when US officials met in a Persian Gulf kingdom with Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of the groups patriarch. The meeting was arranged by Pakistans intelligence chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who also attended. Marc Grossman, the administrations special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, left Sept 30 on an extended trip to the broader South and Central Asian region in hopes of persuading governments there, including China, to join and support an international reconciliation effort. With major international conferences on the war scheduled for Nov 2 in Istanbul and Dec 5 in Bonn, Germany, what we want to do is provide an international basis of support for a political outcome in Afghanistan that will match the military timeline adopted by Nato last November, the administration official said. There has been widespread speculation that insurgent representatives may attend on the margins of either or both meetings, although I wouldnt hazard a prediction at this point, the official said. An additional outcome of the NSC meeting, officials said, was an order for various players - the Defence Department, the CIA, the State Department, and the White House itself - to stop sending mixed messages to Pakistan and others about the administrations war policies. Long-simmering internal conflicts came to a head with the Sept 22 congressional testimony of Adm Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who openly accused Pakistani intelligence of responsibility for a series of high-profile recent Haqqani network attacks in Afghanistan, including on the US Embassy in Kabul. The testimony started a chain reaction, leading to congressional calls to end US aid to Pakistan and avowals by new Defence Secretary Leon E Panetta that the administration would do whatever was necessary to stop the Haqqanis from killing US forces. Others within the administration were taken aback. The State Department worried that its civilian assistance programme in Pakistan would be curtailed. The CIA was apprehensive that Pakistani intelligence cooperation against other militant groups would be undermined. As the media chronicled the debate, the White House feared it was losing control of Pakistan policy. In a series of meetings with the national security team the following week, the White House reviewed long-standing options in Pakistan, ranging from outright attack to diplomacy, along with the likely ramifications of each, a process that culminated in the Sept 29 NSC meeting. Obama had gradually lost faith in Pakistan and its weak civilian leadership, officials said. But the core goal of their efforts, the president reminded his team, was the elimination of Pakistan-based al-Qaeda. It was important, he warned them, that nobody takes their eye off the ball. Officials were instructed to calm European partners, telling them that while there would be more edge to the administrations approach towards Pakistan, there would be no dramatic policy change, a European diplomat said. The Europeans, another said, were assured that no ground attack was in the offing. Obamas national security adviser, Thomas E Donilon, conveyed administration resolve to Pakistani military chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani at a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia. The United States wanted a relationship with Pakistan, officials said Donilon told Kayani, but it also wanted the Haqqani attacks to stop. Pakistani officials said Donilon offered Kayani three choices: kill the Haqqani leadership, help us kill them, or persuade them to join a peaceful, democratic Afghan government. Despite Donilons stark message, a senior Pakistani military official said, Kayani was satisfied that he had heard from the top. Too many cooks have been spoiling the broth, the military official said. Everyone has been giving the impression theyre representing the whole administration, with different messages adding to the confusion. Congress is in a visible state of hostility. There are no receptive ears on the Hill, the official added. There is no DOD support and the delivery of military aid, as well as equipment Pakistan has paid for, has slowed to a trickle. The State Department is being the pacifier, but they are helpless. As the approaching end of the Afghanistan war increases the urgency and the stakes for both the United States and Pakistan, the struggle over the Haqqani network has come to illustrate conflicting priorities during a long history of alternating partnership and estrangement.