US Navy Seal commandos were ready to conduct a raid inside Pakistan, similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden, if Islamabad failed to rescue a Canadian-American family seized in 2012 by the Haqqani network, the New York Times said.
A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone was circling a remote valley in northwest Pakistan last month when it captured the images of a young woman and children in a militant camp, the Times said.
To intelligence analysts, she appeared to be the American abducted five years earlier while backpacking in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband.
American Caitlan Coleman and Canadian Joshua Boyle were kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan. Coleman, 31, was pregnant at that time. All their three children were born in captivity. Boyle was 34 when rescued.
Calling the images a "breakthrough", the daily cited the American officials as saying that "military planners mobilized members of the Navy's Seal Team 6, an elite group of commandos, to mount a rescue".
The commandos started rehearsing. The raid was to take place not far from where the CIA had originally spotted the family, said one official.
But the risky operation planned on Pakistani soil was called off because some in the US government were not certain that the people spotted by the drones were Coleman, Boyle and their children, according to the officials.
Days later, the CIA watched in alarm as militants drove the family out of the camp and across Pakistan's lawless tribal lands close to Afghanistan.
American officials formed a plan to push the Pakistani government to act. Trump was briefed and Defence Secretary James Mattis and State Secretary Rex Tillerson both backed the idea that if Islamabad declined to rescue the family, the Navy Seals would go in.
US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale told Islamabad: "Resolve this, or the US will."
The Times said: "The implication was clear. If the Pakistanis did not act decisively, the US would set aside its unease and launch a raid deep inside the country to free the family.
"It would be another humiliating episode for the Pakistani government, reminiscent of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, conducted by the same elite Navy SEAL commandos well into Pakistan without its government's knowledge. "And a failure to act would underscore American officials' belief that the Pakistani government gives safe haven to the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that had kidnapped the family," it said. IANS