Citing Islamabad’s alleged relationship with a militant group known for targeting US trained security forces in war-torn Afghanistan, a senior US lawmaker has blocked the Obama administration’s subsidised sale of as many as eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
“I cannot allow the Obama administration to use taxpayer funds to support the sale of the jets,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Naming attacks by Haqqani network on US troops in Afghanistan, Corker alleged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government of providing continuous support to its leaders.
“I do not want US taxpayer dollars going to support these acquisitions,” the senator said in an interview.
“While we’re spending tremendous amount of US dollars and certainly tremendous sacrifice in our men and women in uniform and by other agencies, they are working simultaneously to destabilise Afghanistan,” he added.
Corker, however, suggested the Pakistani government should be welcome to purchase the advanced fighter jets with its own money.
The planned sale through the US State Department’s foreign military sales programme, announced last year, aims to reward Pakistan for its counter-terror efforts.
In his February 9 letter, written to the US secretary of state, Corker said: “I fully understand that our relationship with Pakistan is both complicated and imperfect. Cooperation with Pakistan is important and has achieved some of our interests.”
But he said he was using his authority as a committee chairman to object single-handedly to the proposed sale.
“Pakistan’s activities are problematic and contribute to the notion that it is a duplicitous partner, moving sideways rather than forward in resolving regional challenges.”
Meanwhile, Nadeem Hotiana, spokesperson for Pakistani embassy in Washington, said Islamabad has been engaged in a sustained military campaign against terrorism.
“F-16s have proven to be the most potent vehicle for conducting precision strikes against terrorists,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“We understand the deal has not been blocked but there are reservations regarding the financial aspect. We intend to continue engaging constructively with the US side to address specific concerns,” he added.
Officials in the Obama administration said the US has provided technological support to Pakistan to significant effect in the country’s counter-terrorism efforts and has assisted the Pakistan Army to be more effective against militants in the tribal regions but with minimising collateral damage.
“Our relationship with Pakistan is neither about any one system, nor any one capability. We go deeper than that,” said David McKeeby, of the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which oversees foreign military sales.
A Pentagon spokesperson denied discussing the foreign military sales until the Congress is formally notified.
“Our bilateral defence relationship with Pakistan is focused on enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities and improving the military’s ability to deny ungoverned spaces to terrorists that undermine stability in the region,” said Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood.
This article originally appeared on The Wall Street Journal.