In some of the strongest language yet from a U.S. official, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that the U.S. was “reaching the limits of our patience” with Pakistan allowing militant groups to enjoy safe haven inside parts of the country.

Panetta would not rule out stepping up drone attacks inside Pakistan if those safe havens are not eliminated, or sending in ground troops – an option which would infuriate Pakistan’s leaders and public.

“It is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place, and from allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces,” said Panetta, who made a brief, unannounced visit to Kabul on Thursday.

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