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Pakistan pushes back on U.S. F-16 sale opposition

Pakistani officials reiterate need for U.S. sale of 8 F-16s.

By Geoff Ziezulewicz
Pakistan pushes back on U.S. F-16 sale opposition
A potential $700 million sale of 8 F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. to Pakistan has sparked ire between both sides. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Lotz

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials are pushing back against concerns from U.S. lawmakers over a planned $700 million F-16 fighter jet sale.

The country needs the eight F-16s for its battle against terrorists, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said Saturday, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn. As such, Chaudhry said, no conditions should be attached to the jet sale, Dawn reported.

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The deal initially called for Pakistan to foot roughly $270 million of the $699 million price tag, with the rest coming from the U.S. Foreign Military Financing fund, according to Dawn.

But the proposed plan, announced on the U.S. side in February, has come under fire from U.S. politicians concerned over Pakistan's track record battling Islamist extremism and how such a sale could affect tensions with neighboring India. The deal would also include training, maintenance and logistical support.

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U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, R-Tenn., allowed the F-16 sale to go forward in February, but he used his power as a chairman to block any U.S. help in bankrolling the deal, Politico reported.

Senators from both sides of the aisle questioned the wisdom of selling the F-16s to Pakistan.

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"The Pakistanis have been an unreliable partner over the course of the last 10 years in the fight against extremism," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on the Senate floor. "But what I worry more is that these F-16s will provide cover, will provide substitute for truly meaningful action inside Pakistan to take on the roots of extremism."

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Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted the deal go through as planned. "It is pretty standard to help with the financing, especially of countries that one, are not very wealthy, and two are our allies," McCain said. "And it's important they have these capabilities."

U.S. House members have also expressed concerns about the sale recently.

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., criticized "the Administration's recent attempt to subsidize with taxpayer dollars the sale of F-16s to Pakistan" during an April 27 Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

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"Many Members of Congress, including me, seriously question the judgment and timing of such a sale," Salmon said in his opening statement. "Additionally, India-Pakistan 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 has asserted."

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