Senior U.S. officials say President George Bush gave secret orders in July authorizing U.S. armed forces to carry out ground assaults in Pakistan without seeking approval from Pakistan's government.

Former and current officials, who spoke to U.S. reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the military will notify Pakistan's government when it conducts raids but will not seek its permission. 

They said the orders are part of a broader push to assert U.S. control over the Afghan-Pakistani border, considered a stronghold for the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani Wednesday criticized a recent series of suspected U.S. raids in Pakistan, vowing to defend the country's sovereignty "at all costs."  Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday said the army chief's statement reflects government views.

In Afghanistan today, a NATO spokesman, James Appathurai, told reporters his troops will not take part in any cross-border operation into Pakistan. 

The spokesman said there are currently no ground or air incursions by NATO forces in Afghanistan into Pakistani territory.  He said NATO states are likely to discuss the issue at a meeting in London next week, but they are not expected to authorize attacks in Pakistan.

News of the secret U.S. military authorization was first reported in the New York Times newspaper.

In related news, the chief of the U.S. military says his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan will tackle what he calls the "common insurgency" in the tribal areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said Wednesday the U.S. and its allies cannot, in his words, "kill our way to victory" in Afghanistan.


Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.