Published On: Sat, Apr 30th, 2016

US Congress puts $742 mn aid to Pakistan on hold for F-16s purchase: Toner



WASHINGTON: The United States has stated that some members of Congress have raised their concerns about how to finance F-16s sale to Pakistan.

In a daily media briefing, Mark C. Toner, US State Department deputy spokesperson, said, “We believe the F-16s are helpful in Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, and they have been a part of the successful pushback in past operations against the militant groups.”

However, Toner said, “Some members of Congress have stated their concerns about how to finance F-16s sale to Pakistan.” He said Obama administration has no concerns over sale of F-16s to Pakistan.

To a question, the spokesman said that Congress has put on hold $742 million military aid to Pakistan for F-16s.

“We recognize that Pakistan is trying to make efforts to fight against the terror groups that threaten all Pakistanis.”

Toner went on to say that that there has been some ups and downs in Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and with the region, but US believes it’s trending towards greater dialogue to resolve differences. “We want to see that continue.”

“We believe our security assistance does contribute to a more stable and secure Pakistan and region,” the spokesman said.

Pakistan has to pay full price of $700m; Congress refused funding for deal; says Pakistan not doing enough to fight militants; India has concerns about sale

The US Congress on Friday stopped the aid to Pakistan for the sale of eight F-16 jets and would no longer subsidise the sale, a senior State Department official told the BBC.

The decision means that Pakistan will have to pay more than $700 million, two-and-a-half times the original cost — if it wishes to buy the aircraft. It comes after Congress refused to approve funding for the deal.

Some US lawmakers had accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight the militants. India also objected to the sale.However, Pakistan has argued that the jets are needed for anti-terror operations, and so the US should help with funding the purchase.

The people close to the deal say it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be willing to pay the full cost of the fighter jets, so it seems to be off for all practical purposes.A spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Nadeem Hotiana, told the BBC that arms sales were a long process and that he would not comment on the deal’s current status.

“F-16s provide precision strike capability to Pakistan’s ongoing campaign against militancy,” he said.Pakistan believes that the threat from terrorist networks requires continued capacity building and both governments continue to work together towards this objective through a range of measures, including the sale of these aircraft.

The senior US State Department official, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, says the Obama administration is still very much in favour of selling the fighter jets to Pakistan as it believes it is in the national interest of the United States. However, Pakistan would have to bear the full cost of the F-16 fighter jets if it wished to proceed, he said.

The original arrangement had been that Pakistan would pay close to $270 million with the US Foreign Military Financing budget paying for the rest.However, top US lawmakers have expressed concerns over the US government’s decision to sell the jets to Pakistan, saying they could be used against India rather than for combating terrorism.

Speaking on Thursday, Congressman Matt Salmon said: “India-Pakistan tensions remain elevated, and some question whether the F-16s could ultimately be used against India or other regional powers, rather than the terrorists as Pakistan has asserted.”

Meanwhile, the State Department publicly admitted that key members of Congress were not supporting the administration’s willingness to sell eight F-16 jets to Pakistan on subsided rates.

The intent to sell the aircraft was announced in February by the administration, which faced stiff resistance in the beginning. It was later approved by the Congress except that a few lawmakers withheld the financing as well. The administration officials in March also claimed that they had been in constant consultation with Congress, reminding them that the deal was in favour of the US because “the sale contributes to foreign policy objectives and national security goals.”

In response to a question, the State Department acknowledged officially on Friday that “key members of Congress have been clear they are not prepared to support FMF for the F-16s absent some specific actions.” The FMF or Foreign Military programme provides grants and loans to help countries purchase weapons and defence equipment produced in the United States as well as acquiring defence services and military training.

Pakistan, on the other hand, insisted that it was still waiting for an offer letter from the US government, a procedure that has to be followed, explaining the terms of the deal and pending decision to purchase the jets or not accordingly.

The News reported about the proceedings in February and especially on March 30 with details that Pakistan was re-evaluating the purchase of the fighter jets following the hold imposed on the financing. The decision from Pakistan could not be reached because the offer letter is still pending. The administration had ensured, according to the Pakistan Embassy, that the issue would be resolved.

A highly placed Pakistani official had revealed in March that the country had already paid about $200 million in lieu of the purchase. The remaining jets were expected to be on subsidised rates, yet if the offer fails, Pakistan would not buy the jets from the US.

The Pakistani officials had said that the offer letter had to be reached before August since the administration would get embroiled in the upcoming presidential elections. “If the terms of the contract are different from what Pakistan expects, the country will go for other options,” the official had said.

Lately, the House members inquired about the status of the deal at a hearing on Wednesday. Ambassador Richard Olson, Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, defended the intent once again to sell the jets to Pakistan. “The administration is supportive of the F-16 sale to Pakistan,” Olson argued. “This has been developed between our military coordinating groups over the course of time that is consistent with overall programme of support for the Pakistani military, which is based on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism,” he said adding that “Pakistanis have developed a precision strike capability that they use in the F-16s they have right now to take out targets.”


News Source TheNews

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology