WASHINGTON  - American newspapers have begun to pay attention to the reported tensions between Pakistan's civilian government and the military, saying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's assertiveness against the khakis poses problems for the Obama administration.

So far, the print and electronic media have been publishing statements and counter-statements made by government and military officials without much analysing them. But on Friday, The Los Angeles Times carried a dispatch, saying that Sharif, who was ousted as prime minister in the last military coup 15 years ago, was pushing back. "Since he returned to office in June, his government has lodged a case against generals over the disappearance of imprisoned militants and engaged Pakistani Taliban insurgents in a controversial peace process against the army's wishes," the LA Times said.

"Most recently, Sharif has gone after the man who removed him from power in 1999, Pervez Musharraf. Last month the former military ruler was indicted on treason charges, the first time a serving or former army official of his rank has faced trial for abuse of power. The government and courts have denied the ailing Musharraf's appeals to seek medical treatment abroad.

The military, which has been trying to stay out of politics since Musharraf's rule ended in disaster in 2008, has nonetheless begun to chafe at the civilian government's assertiveness. Last week, army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, showed a flash of irritation during a visit to a military base, saying the army would 'preserve its own dignity and institutional pride at all costs'."

The dispatch said, "The comment by the normally taciturn general was the clearest signal yet of tension between the military and Sharif's government, which won a strong electoral mandate last year but is still widely seen as serving at the pleasure of the military establishment...

"The developments present a dilemma for the United States, which is eager to see Sharif's government implement democratic reforms, tackle withering economic and energy crises and improve relations with Pakistan's nuclear-armed rival, India.

"At the same time, many in the Obama administration support the Pakistani army's desire to go after militants in the country's ungoverned tribal regions, particularly as the Pentagon prepares to withdraw most of its forces from neighbouring Afghanistan by the end of the year."

US military officials fear that the troop drawdown will give the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, more freedom to move in and out of Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has occasionally signaled that it would launch an offensive, it said, but Moeed Yusuf, director of South Asia programmes at the United States Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, was cited as saying that wouldn't occur without the backing of civilian officials.

"If you ask Washington and others, they would say the focus needs to be developing a coherent strategy for targeting the TTP," Yusuf said. "But nobody would want the operation undertaken without civilian blessing and control. The Pakistani military won't do it; they want the political cover."

The LA Times said, "There are signs that Sharif's approach has limits, particularly as talks with militants have stalled. On the all-important issue of India, Sharif has deferred to the military, which is opposed to making swift concessions to its rival. Last month, Sharif's government called off a deal that would have normalized trade between the countries." "Pakistan's approach to India, despite the initial declarations of Nawaz Sharif after his election victory last summer, remains essentially the same," an unnamed senior Indian official was quoted as saying.

Civilian officials have often invoked the example of Turkey, where over the last decade a powerful army has ceded authority to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's democratically elected government. But military officials say that Erdogan, who took office in 2003, carried out the transition gradually and won confidence through his handling of economic and domestic affairs, qualities Pakistan's government has yet to show.

"Our ruling party has been trying to do in the first year of its term what Erdogan's government succeeded in doing after three terms," Athar Abbas, a retired major general and former army spokesman, was quoted as saying.

"The army has been fighting the war of survival of this nation," he said. "It will react to any effort to corner it or discredit it."