US Secretary of State John Kerry stoutly defended his country’s proposed sale of F-16s to Pakistan on Friday, insisting the fighter jets are a ‘critical’ tool in Islamabad’s fight against terrorism.
A report carried by the Press Trust of India cited Kerry as saying that the fighter jet was a “critical part’ of the armoury against terrorists.
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The US administration’s decision to sell F-16s to Pakistan has received stiff opposition from US lawmakers and the Indian government. “The F-16s have been a critical part of the Pakistani fight against the terrorists in the western part of that country, and have been effective in that fight. And Pakistan has lost some 50,000 people in the last few years, including troops, to the terrorists that are threatening Pakistan itself,” Kerry told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
“So it’s always complicated. We try to be sensitive to the balance, obviously, with respect to India. But we think the F-16s are an important part of Pakistan’s ability to do that,” Kerry said when Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera joined other lawmakers to express his concern over the proposed sale of the F-16s to Pakistan.
“Needless to say, we don’t want to do things that upset the balance, but we do believe that Pakistan is engaged legitimately in a very tough fight against identifiable terrorists in their country that threaten Pakistan,” the top American diplomat argued.
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“They have got about 150,000 to 180,000 troops out in the western part of their country. They’ve been engaged in North Waziristan in a long struggle to clear the area and move people out. They have made some progress in that. Is it enough in our judgment? No,” he said.
“We think that more could be done. We’re particularly concerned about the sanctuary components of Pakistan, and we’re particularly concerned about some individual entities in Pakistan that have been supportive of relationships with some of the people that we consider extremely dangerous to our interests in Afghanistan; Haqqani Network, is a prime example of that,” Kerry said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2016.