NEW rules of engagement authorising US ground attacks inside Pakistan, signed by President Bush in July, were not agreed to by that country's civilian government or its military, according to US and Pakistani officials, reports Washington Post. Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani was informed last month by senior US defence officials that if Pakistan failed to stem the flow of Taliban and other militant fighters into Afghanistan, the United States would adopt a new strategy, one allowing ground strikes on targeted insurgent encampments. A senior Pakistani official said that Kayani believed the strategy was still under discussion and that Pakistan's counterinsurgency performance was improving. News of Bush's order, following a strike last week by helicopter-borne US commandos on a village about 20 miles inside Pakistan, brought denunciation from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who echoed Kayani's earlier charge that the attack had violated Pakistani sovereignty. A senior European official said that the NATO allies shared US concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and were aware new US rules were under consideration, but that they were unaware the rules had been approved. Bush's July order, first reported by the New York Times, was confirmed by several US officials. The senior European official called the implementation of the new strategy 'peculiar', since its timing coincided with this week's inauguration of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. "If you're going to invade another country . . . without their permission, after you've just spent eight years trying to get a democratic government in place, it strikes me as kind of confused politics," the official said. AFP adds: US ties with "war on terror" ally Pakistan are strained after US commandos unilaterally launched ground assaults on militants on Pakistani soil, drawing fire from the military chief in Islamabad. "There is strain in the bilateral relationship but on the plus side, both sides are speaking honestly to each other about what it is we need," a US administration official told AFP Thursday. The official virtually confirmed that US-led coalition ground troops in Afghanistan had been given the green light to undertake unilateral cross border operations against militants in Pakistan. The first such foray last week left two dozen suspected Al-Qaeda fighters dead, US reports said. "There has been a desire for many months now in Washington to sort of free the hands of the military commanders on the Afghan side," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. This was "to give them greater ability to seize the opportunities when they arise because frankly we have plenty of examples of opportunities we were unable to seize," he said. The New York Times newspaper reported Thursday that US President George W Bush secretly approved orders in July allowing US forces to conduct ground operations in Pakistan without Islamabad's prior approval. The White House refused to confirm the report. A day earlier, Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani strongly criticised the maiden cross border raid last week, reportedly by two dozen US commandos supported by an AC-130 gunship. But the US official said Washington was frustrated with "delays and sometimes non-answers" from Islamabad regarding "actionable intelligence" on militant movements in the tribal areas in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants were believed hiding. In addition, there was a lack of Pakistani action on a comprehensive counter insurgency strategy in the suspected terrorist hideouts, he said. "We've been clear, we've been frank about the paramount importance of preventing the extremist elements from continuing to consolidate in the tribal areas," he said. The US-Pakistan strains appeared just two weeks after Kayani met the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Admiral Michael Mullen together with their top military officers in a US aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean to discuss counter terrorism strategies. Mullen said Wednesday he had ordered the military to draw up a new strategy that encompasses insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. "I think probably there was a decision made (by the United States) that 'enough is enough' and they needed to take these steps in order to try to take care of the problem on their own," said Lisa Curtis, a former senior advisor on South Asian issues in the State Department. The move, she said, could be attributed to Pakistan's attempt to forge peace deals with militants in the tribal areas recently that followed heavy casualties suffered by US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Information linking Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, known as the ISI, to a deadly blast at the Indian embassy in Afghanistan in July could be another factor that led to the new action, said Curtis, a South Asia expert at Washington-based Heritage Foundation. Analysts at the CIA and other US spy and security agencies believe not only that the embassy bombing was aided by ISI operatives, but also that the highest levels of Pakistan's security apparatus - including Kayani - had knowledge of the plot, the New York Times reported Thursday. "It's very difficult to imagine he was not aware," it quoted a senior American official as saying of Kayani. The CIA has for years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft but the new ground raids on the territory of a key ally without permission highlighted a more aggressive US stand. "I think this is definitely an escalation from the US side, there is a big difference between predator, missile strikes and actually having boots on the ground without coordinating first with the Pakistani government," Curtis said. "Certainly, this is going to add tensions to the relationship, hopefully such raids would not be a regular occurrence and we would get better coordination, cooperation between Pakistan and US forces," she said.