ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan will use "all appropriate means" to attack militant hideouts inside the country, the prime minister said Thursday, amid rising criticism of the nation's security forces in the wake of a deadly 16-hour assault on a naval base last weekend.
Yousuf Raza Gilani gave no indication the army was considering new offensives along the Afghan border, where most of the militants in Pakistan are based along with other groups and affiliates who are attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The United States wants to see action in North Waziristan region especially, where a deadly Afghan Taliban faction is based, to help it put pressure on Afghan insurgents and enable it to begin withdrawing troops later this summer after 10 years of war.
Washington has been quietly helping train Pakistan security forces in the northwest, but that cooperation has faltered amid several incidents that have exposed the fragile nature of ties between the two nations -- most recently the unilateral May 2 raid in which U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan said the United States was reducing the number of its military trainers in Pakistan, in a further sign of the deteriorating relationship. Lapan said there were more than 200 trainers in Pakistan, but he provided no details on how many had been withdrawn since Islamabad made its request two weeks ago.
Gilani's remarks followed a meeting late Wednesday with defense chiefs. He said the government "will ensure that terrorists hideouts are being destroyed using all appropriate means."
"It is clear that we are now entering another defining phase in the struggle against terrorists and for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan," he said, referring to Pakistan's desire to play a leading role in any negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's army has attacked militants in several border regions over the last four years, but with limited success and public support. It has yet to attack North Waziristan, now considered the hub of al-Qaida and Taliban activity, saying its troops are too stretched.
The weekend attack on the base in the port city of Karachi was carried out by militants who had trained in Waziristan, according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik. At least 10 people were killed and two U.S. supplied aircraft destroyed in the attack, one of the most brazen in years.
The raid raised fresh anxieties domestically and international about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Gilani dismissed those concerns, saying security arrangements surround the bombs "conform with the highest international standards and practices followed by other nuclear weapon states."