US administration supports F-16s for Pakistan, says official

Threat from terrorist networks requires continued capacity building, says spokesperson Nadeem Hotiana

News Desk April 29, 2016

Pakistan on Thursday rejected criticism of US’ sale of F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad noting how Washington itself supports the move.

“The US administration has stated it supports the sale of F-16s to Pakistan,” a statement from Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesperson for the Pakistani embassy in Washington, said on Thursday.

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“This [sale] is in line with bilateral counterterrorism cooperation that both sides have pursued for mutual benefit.”

Hotiana’s comments came a day after some US lawmakers expressed concerns over the Obama administration’s decision to sell eight F-16 jets to Pakistan, claiming that the aircraft could be used against India instead of terrorists and urged the White House to review its decision.

But Hotiana dispelled these notions, pointing towards their use in the ongoing operation against terrorists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“F-16s provide precision strike capability to Pakistan’s ongoing campaign against militancy and have proven to be an effective platform during Operation Zarb-e-Azb.”

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He added that Pakistan believes threat from terrorist networks requires continued capacity building and that “both governments continue to work together towards this objective through a range of measures including sale of these aircraft.”

Earlier, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, on Wednesday, called for “stopping the sale of F-16s that Pakistan does not need and will probably not use in its supposed fight against terrorism”.

She was speaking at a joint subcommittee hearing entitled, Advancing US Interests: Examining the President’s FY 2017 Budget Proposal for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “It makes little sense to continue giving Pakistan billions of dollars if it’s going to continue to work against our interests. We must leverage our aid to Pakistan so that it is a better regional partner with Afghanistan and also helps us root out terrorists within its borders.”

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She added that the president was requesting approximately $1.2 billion for Afghanistan and about $742 million for Pakistan in the foreign aid budget. “For comparison’s sake, the combined request for these countries is about 77 per cent of the overall request for the South and Central Asia region and about 4 per cent of the entire foreign affairs request for this year.”

She also claimed that Pakistan was the direct contributor to the Taliban’s success “not only allowing them to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven but providing it support inside Afghanistan’s borders.”

She urged the US president to allow the security forces to target the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying, “It is extremely difficult to negotiate with an enemy who sees its position consistently improving and, as President Ghani said yesterday, the Taliban operates freely because Pakistan refuses to take action against it inside its borders.”

“We must leverage our aid to Pakistan so that it is a better regional partner with Afghanistan and also helps us root out terrorists within its borders,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th,  2016.


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