Ignoring the flurry of objections from U.S lawmakers, the Obama administration has moved ahead with its plan to sell eight F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan. The administration has defended its decision on the grounds that Pakistan has been using its fleet of F-16 effectively against terrorists and these fighter planes have enhanced the Pakistani military’s precision-strike capabilities.
While the administration has continuously insisted over the last three months that supplying a new batch of F-16 to Pakistan was essential for its Afghanistan strategy, lawmakers opposed to the deal oppose it on the grounds that Pakistan continues to support terror outfits. Some have also raised the point these nuclear capable planes could be used to threaten India and destabilise the region.
Congress notified of plans
The administration on Friday notified Congress of its plans, a requirement under U.S laws. Congress can modify or block the sale in the next 30 days, but the President could overrule it through a veto. Pakistan has limited support among U.S lawmakers and several have opposed the sales.
However, U.S lawmakers are under immense pressure from Lockheed Martin, the company that manufactures F-16s, according to sources that are familiar with the circumstances.
No easy proposition
Lawmakers are now narrowing their objection to Pakistan financing the purchase from military assistance that it receives from the U.S, a move that could disrupt the convenient mechanism of Pakistan paying for American fighters with money it gets from the U.S government under Foreign Military Financing (FMF). Congress appropriates funds for FMF through the yearly Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that must be approved by the Foreign Relations Committee and Appropriations Committees of the two chambers of Congress. This is not going to be easy.
“While it is my intention at this time to clear the sale of eight F-1 6 aircraft to Pakistan, I do not plan to support the expenditure of the very limited FMF account to finance this deal, now or in the future,” Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week.
“I may reconsider my blanket hold on U.S. FMF assistance should the Pakistanis make progress on addressing my significant concerns about their support for the Haqqani network. But for now if they wish to purchase this military equipment, they will do so without a subsidy from the American taxpayer,” Mr. Corker said.
Letter to Obama
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Congressman Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “As several other Members of Congress and numerous independent experts have argued, providing such a significant upgrade to Pakistan’s offensive military capabilities is extremely problematic in light of the Pakistani military’s widely alleged complicity in terrorist violence, as well as the potential for the Pakistani military to use these F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons in conflict scenario with India. I strongly urge the Administration to reconsider the sale,” he wrote.
Republican Ted Poe and Democrat Tulsi Gabbard objected to the sale in a letter to Mr. Kerry.
“Pakistan behaviour hasn’t changed”
“Given that the United States has already supplied Pakistan with over $30 billion in foreign assistance from FY2002-FY2016 and Pakistan still has not changed its behaviour in any significant way, it is unconvincing that giving Pakistan more taxpayer dollars to finance the purchase of F-16s will somehow break that trend,” they said. “….we urge you not to use taxpayer money to finance the sale of F-16s to Pakistan,” Mr. Poe and Ms. Gabbard said.
“The Pakistani and Taliban-linked terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, listed by the U.S. government since 2001 as a designated foreign terrorist organisation, is believed to be behind the recent attack on India’s Pathankot Air Force base, which killed seven Indian nationals……On February 3, Hafiz Saeed, one of the masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in which six U.S. citizens were killed, called for additional attacks against India,” Ms. Gabbard and Mr. Poe said.