WASHINGTON - The US government wasted an opportunity to forge alliances with tribal leaders along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that could have curbed Al Qaeda and Taliban's resurgence, The Los Angles Times reported, citing officials and diplomats say. The newspaper reported that Washington has not reached out to its allies in Islamabad and Kabul to recruit the tribal leaders, seen as key to driving Islamic extremists from the border territory, despite evidence suggesting militants are growing stronger along the border. Reversing the trend will take years of aggressive counter-insurgency efforts, said an unnamed senior State Department official involved in South Asia issues. "It's hard, and an incredible contribution of resources, and you have to do it village by village," the official was quoted as saying. "But you have to start somewhere." The official estimated 120 to 140 senior tribal leaders were killed in Pakistan, many in the last 18 months. As a result, many tribal leaders have become more supportive of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. "Any tribal leader who has committed to the government is seen as a threat to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, as betrayers of Islam," M. Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan's counselor for Political, Security and Development Affairs in Washington, was quoted as saying. "They can be targeted and some have been killed." "It's like an old-fashioned gang war. And at the end of the day, al-Qaeda had the money and the guns and they won the gang war," said Congressman Adam Smith, a Democratic who is the chairman of the House Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. US officials are now concerned that the peace accords the new Pakistan government is trying to negotiate with Baitullah Mahsud and pro-militant tribal leaders will allow Al Qaeda and the Taliban to solidify their base in the area, according to The Times. And some U.S. lawmakers oppose continued funding for Islamabad, including money earmarked for tribal security forces that they fear have been compromised by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. "We don't want to strengthen the Pakistani tribes if they're going to misuse the additional military support," Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said last month after visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time, at Washington's urging, Pakistan and Afghanistan are making efforts to cultivate influential tribal leaders and encourage them to expel foreign Al Qaeda fighters and the local pro-Taliban militants who support and protect them, officials said. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's new ambassador to Washington, was cited as saying the government is reaching out to those it believes are still open to expelling Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. He said continued U.S. aid is crucial to the new government's plans to offer incentives such as new schools and roads.