The US move to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan is in more trouble than before with a senior Republican senator blocking it over Islamabad’s dubious record on combating terrorism.
Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate foreign relations committee, has told secretary of state John Kerry in a letter he couldn’t allow the sale, which the US is subsidising.
“I do not want US taxpayer dollars going to support these acquisitions,” Corker told The Wall Street Journal.
“While we’re spending tremendous amounts of US dollars and certainly tremendous sacrifice in our men and women in uniform and by other agencies, they are working simultaneously to destabilise Afghanistan.”
Pakistan is free to buy the combat jets with its own money, Corker is understood to have told Kerry. The deal will cost an estimated $1.32 billion, with each F-16 going for $165 million.
The Obama administration had proposed the subsidised sale through the state department’s Foreign Military Sales programme as an apparent reward for Islamabad’s cooperation in counter-terrorism.
But Corker is not clearly convinced Pakistan has a case, as do many other members of the House of Representatives, who had stalled clearance and sought clarifications, as first reported by Hindustan Times.
“I fully understand that our relationship with Pakistan is both complicated and imperfect,” Corker wrote in the letter he sent to Kerry on February 9, according to the Journal.
“Cooperation with Pakistan is important and has achieved some of our interests,” he said, but went on to describe Pakistan as a “duplicitous partner, moving sideways rather than forward in resolving regional challenges”.
Citing activities by the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, which operates across the border in Afghanistan, Corker wrote that Islamabad continues to provide haven to its leaders.
Pakistan has claimed that it is conducting a sustained military campaign against terrorists, but that’s a claim which hasn’t found many buyers in the US and India.
In a recent interview to PTI, President Barack Obama said Pakistan “can and must” do more to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks operating from its soil.
Just days before this interview, a group of terrorists from Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan, attacked an Indian airbase in Pathankot and killed seven security personnel.