Top United States lawmakers have expressed concern over Obama administration’s decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, saying the aircraft could be used against India and not to combat terrorism. They have also called for a review of the decision.
“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,” Congressman Matt Salmon said during a Congressional hearing.
Read: India expresses displeasure to US over F-16 sale to Pakistan
Salmon was joined by several other lawmakers during the Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan convened by the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wherein Obama administration was represented by the Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson.
“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,” Congressman Brad Sherman said. “We need to offer to Pakistan those weapon systems well-crafted to go after terrorists and not crafted for a war with India,” Sherman added.
The US Senate has currently put on hold the decision of the Obama administration to give eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan at an estimated cost of $700 million.
Salmon also asked Olson to clarify the underlying purpose and timing of the intended sale and how is it in the best interest of the United States. “Despite giving Pakistan enormous amounts of counter-terror assistance over the years, over $25 billion 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 alleged.
The subcommittee chairperson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen too expressed concerns over sale of F-16 to Pakistan. “I think that we need to leverage our military sales to Pakistan in order to get some more cooperation within the region.
US lawmakers, cutting across political lines have in the past opposed military assistance to Islamabad on the grounds that its military still maintains links with the dreaded Haqqani network, which has been blamed for targeting American assets in neighbouring Afghanistan. A recently declassified cable revealed that Pakistan’s secret services, the ISI had funded the Haqqanis to mount a deadly attack on CIA base in the eastern Afghan city of Khost.