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US lawmakers again slam F-16 sale to Pakistan

28 April 2016

Top United States lawmakers have urged the Barack Obama administration to reconsider its decision to sell the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon to Pakistan, as these could be turned against India.

Republican representative for Arizona's 5th congressional district Matt Salmon, along with other lawmakers, raised the issue at the Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan, for which the Obama administration was represented by Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson.

The US has virtually confirmed the sale of eight  F-16 fighter jets worth $700 million to Pakistan, a move strongly opposed by India (See: Senate okays F-16 fighter sale to Pak despite opposition).

"Many members of Congress, including me, seriously question the judgement and timing of such a sale. Additionally, Indo-Pak 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 as asserted," Salmon said.

"We've got to be concerned what military assistance and whether the F-16s constitute the least expensive, most efficient way for the Pakistani air force to go after the terrorists and the least disruptive weapon system to the balance of power between India and Pakistan. We need to offer to Pakistan those weapon systems well-crafted to go after terrorists and not crafted for a war with India," Congressman Brad Sherman said.

A report in Pakistan's newspaper Dawn in early March said the US has notified the sale, a step towards finalising the deal. While the report suggested that the deal will be finalised after 11 March, the US Senate has kept the decision on hold.

Salmon questioned the Obama administration's decision to sell more weapons to Pakistan, which has failed to combat terrorism originating in the country despite getting "enormous amounts" of assistance.

"Despite giving Pakistan enormous amounts of counter-terror assistance since 9/11, terrorist organisations continue to operate with impunity in Pakistan. Pakistan has used terror as a tool of statecraft and terrorist proxy groups, for the Pakistani military have carried out fatal attacks inside India," he said.

Meanwhile, Olson responded to the concerns raised by the Congressmen and said the sale will benefit the US as Pakistan will use the jets against terror organisations like Pakistani Taliban. He said the US has applauded Pakistan's efforts against the domestic terrorism threat.

"The administration is supportive of the F-16 sale to Pakistan ... the Pakistanis have developed a precision strike capability that they use in the F-16s they have right now to take out targets. These are principally the Pakistani Taliban, but we think that that is a good thing. The Pakistani Taliban has been involved in attacks against Americans at Chapman in Afghanistan in 2009, and indeed, in supporting the Times Square bomber," he said.

Objections have always been raised against Obama administration's decision, not just by India and US lawmakers  (US lawmakers oppose F-16 fighter sale to Pakistan ) but also by a former Pakistani diplomat.

Former Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani had, last year warned against the move, raising concerns similar to those of the US lawmakers.

"Unless Pakistan changes its worldview and its compulsive competition with its much larger neighbour, American weapons will end up being used to fight or menace India and perceived domestic enemies instead of being deployed against jihadists," Haqqani had said.

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