U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks with U.S. troops...

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks with U.S. troops during an event in Kabul, Afghanistan. (June 7, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

The United States is running out of patience with Pakistan over its failure to crack down on the Haqqani guerrilla group, which has stepped up attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

"It's an increasing concern that safe havens continue to exist" in Pakistan and the Haqqani network is able to flee to safety after mounting attacks, Panetta told reporters in Kabul after meeting Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. "We are reaching the limits of our patience here and for that reason it's extremely important that Pakistan take action."

Panetta arrived in Kabul earlier Thursday from India on the last leg of an Asian tour to assess troop pullout plans in Afghanistan even as attacks on coalition forces by the Taliban and the Pakistan-based Haqqani militants are escalating.

As the Obama administration plans its exit from an 11-year war in Afghanistan, its relationship with Pakistan has been battered by series of standoffs. The U.S. needs Pakistan's cooperation in halting cross-border attacks, reopening coalition supply lines, and at least tacitly accepting allied drone strikes on terrorist targets in Pakistan such as the one this week that killed al-Qaida's second-in-command.

"There clearly has been an increase in the attacks," Panetta told reporters accompanying him before arriving in Kabul. "We've seen a recent attack that was much more organized than what we have seen before, using a vehicle IED combined with suicide bombers," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices.

The Pentagon had anticipated that attacks would rise over the next few months as it prepares to withdraw the additional troops President Barack Obama sent to Afghanistan in 2010 as part of his administration's surge strategy, Panetta said. Still, Marine Corps General John Allen, the top coalition commander in the country, has "expressed concern at the renewed level of attacks," said Panetta, ahead of his fourth visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary.

Wardak said Thursday that Pakistan had several options it could use to curb cross-border raids, including counterintelligence operations, law enforcement or even military action.

"If they take action, we'll be able to disrupt" the Haqqani network's command and control, Wardak said. "Without doing that our endeavor to achieve victory will become much more difficult."

The guerrillas controlled by Jalaluddin Haqqani maintain bases in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region along the Afghan border. They have been blamed for high profile attacks in Kabul and Afghanistan's eastern provinces, including a rocket- propelled grenade assault on the U.S. embassy in September last year. Former U.S. military chief Mike Mullen last year said the Haqqanis operate as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's main spy agency as it bids to retain influence in Afghanistan.

The American-led international coalition plans to pull out most of the 88,000 U.S. troops and their 40,000 counterparts from other nations by the end of 2014. Once the withdrawal is complete, "the Afghan war as we understand it is over," Obama said last month. An unspecified number of U.S. troops would remain in training roles.

As it seeks to draw down involvement in the war, the U.S. is bidding hold the international coalition together, train, equip and transfer security missions and logistical support to Afghan forces and prevent a Taliban resurgence. It must also reassure friends that it isn't abandoning Afghanistan and foes that they can't simply wait until America and its allies depart.

In discussions with U.S. officials, Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani "continues to indicate a willingness to cooperate" in efforts to control militants operating from the country's northwest Panetta said before landing in Kabul. "We have to do as much as we can to urge Pakistan to take that on."

Speaking Wednesday in New Delhi, Panetta said achieving U.S. goals for Afghanistan "is going to be in large measure dependent on a Pakistan that can confront terrorism within their own borders."

The U.S. is still negotiating with Pakistan in an effort to reopen routes used to transport military supplies to Afghanistan, Panetta said. Pakistan halted the transit after coalition air strikes in November killed 24 of its soldiers.

The U.S. also is urging traditional enemies India and Pakistan to improve their relations so the South Asian nations don't turn Afghanistan into the battleground of a proxy war after 2014, Panetta said.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met with Panetta in New Delhi, recognizes that danger and "has an interest in trying to pursue improving" ties with Pakistan, Panetta said.

Latest videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access