WASHINGTON — The Bush administration isn't satisfied with the quality of information it's getting about terrorist groups operating in Pakistan's volatile tribal area, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

Despite the shortcomings, the United States won't conduct military strikes on its own inside Pakistan unless President Pervez Musharraf's government requests such direct support, said Dell Dailey, the State Department's counterterrorism chief.

"There's gaps in intelligence," Dailey said during a breakfast meeting with reporters. "We don't have enough information about what's going on there. Not on al-Qaida. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban."

Dailey, a retired Army lieutenant general with an extensive background in special operations, said the lack of information makes him "uncomfortable." Yet the solution to the problem rests mainly with the Pakistanis, who would likely see too much U.S. involvement as an unwelcome intrusion.

"We have to be careful conducting operations in a sovereign country, particularly one that's a friend of ours and one that has given us a lot of support," Dailey said. "The blowback would be pretty serious."