INTERNATIONAL

U.S. seeks Congressional nod for financing F-16 sale to Pakistan

Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the committee is opposed to using the military financing scheme to fund the sale of F-16 planes to Pakistan. —FILE PHOTO: AP

Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the committee is opposed to using the military financing scheme to fund the sale of F-16 planes to Pakistan. —FILE PHOTO: AP  

After notifying Congress of its intention to sell eight F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan, the Obama administration has quickly moved for Congressional approval for financing the deal under the country’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) scheme. U.S. administration proposes to pay the bulk of the $699 million cost of the deal while Pakistan is required to pay $200 million.

The administration’s request to Congress is for the first tranche of money, though the exact amount sought was not immediately known. While the notification itself does not need a positive approval from Congress, spending by the administration requires legislative approval, which is not going to come easily.

“While it is my intention at this time to clear the sale of eight F-16 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, had said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week.

Bipartisan resistance

Sources familiar with the developments pointed out that given the resistance being bipartisan — this is not one of the Republicans versus Democrats stalemates that routinely block Obama’s moves — the administration will find it tough to win a vote for financing the deal. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturers of F-16s, continues to lobby hard for the deal with the argument that it will create jobs in America.

“But the argument that American taxpayer cannot finance a deal for arming Pakistan has turned out to be lethal and has taken the administration by surprise,” a source said.

Meanwhile, an official of the U.S. State Department reiterated its commitment to sell F-16s to Pakistan. “We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan to assist Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. Pakistan’s current F-16s have proven critical to the success of these operations to date… These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan. These operations are in the national interests of Pakistan, the United States, NATO, and in the interest of the region more broadly,” the official said.

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