ISLAMABAD (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that extremists have been able to operate from Pakistani soil for too long, increasing pressure on Islamabad to crack down on Islamist militants destabilizing Afghanistan who are allegedly supported by the government.
Clinton is in Pakistan heading an unusually large delegation for two days of talks with civilian and military leaders in Pakistan. The delegation includes CIA director David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The U.S. has become increasingly impatient with Pakistan's refusal to take military action against the Haqqani militant network, which is based in the country's rugged tribal region. The group is considered the greatest threat to American troops in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials have accused Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, of providing it with support -- an allegation denied by Islamabad.
"We should be able to agree that for too long extremists have been able to operate here in Pakistan and from Pakistani soil," said Clinton in a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. "No one who targets innocent civilians, whether they be Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans or anyone else should be tolerated or protected."
Clinton is also scheduled to meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday. She and the other members of her delegation held a lengthy four-hour discussion with top Pakistani military and intelligence officials on Thursday.
"We respect the challenges that Pakistan faces, and we respect the work we are doing together, including our cooperation against al-Qaida," said Clinton. "So terrorism is a challenge we share, and we want to work together to root out all of the extremists who threaten us, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network."
The large U.S. contingent was meant to display unity among the various U.S. agencies with an interest in Pakistan, including the CIA, Pentagon and State Department. Clinton arrived in Islamabad from Afghanistan, where she said the team would "push Pakistan very hard."
She said the U.S. expects the Pakistani government, military and intelligence services to take the lead in fighting Pakistan-based militants and also in encouraging Afghan militants to reconcile.
The Pakistani military has said it can't launch an offensive against the Haqqani network in its safe haven in the North Waziristan tribal area because its troops are stretched too thin by other operations against insurgents at war with the state.
But many analysts suspect the military is reluctant to target a group that is seen as an important potential ally in Afghanistan once foreign troops withdraw. Both the U.S. and Pakistani governments had close relations with the founder of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.