US Congress may prohibit spending on Pak F-16s to keep India happy

April 4th, 2009 - 1:15 pm ICT by ANI  

F-16 Washington, Apr. 4 (ANI): The US Congress is moving toward imposing benchmarks for providing the Pakistani government with billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance, among them being prohibiting additional U.S. spending on Pakistan’s F-16 jet fighter fleet, which the Bush administration agreed to upgrade.

Lawmakers have argued that the planes are part of Pakistan’s defense strategy against neighboring India but that they have little use in counter-insurgency efforts against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The proposed restrictions, introduced in House legislation Thursday, have made both the White House and the Pakistani government uneasy.

The bill sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (Democrat-California) would authorize three billion dollars in aid to train and equip the Pakistani military over the next five years, along with 7.5 billion dollars in economic and development assistance.

It would also limit the kinds of military equipment Pakistan could receive and the ways in which it could be used, and require regular audits and presidential certification of counterinsurgency progress.

A bill with similar aid amounts is being drafted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, although Senate discussions with the White House on benchmark provisions are ongoing.

Introduction of that legislation is not planned until after the two-week congressional recess.

The bill would set up a program to monitor Pakistani progress in a number of areas, including defeating extremists and protecting human rights, and require Obama to provide specifics underlying his own assessments.

President Obama has said that the United States must “demonstrate through deeds as well as words a commitment [to Pakistan] that is enduring.”

He has called on Congress to pass the still-unseen Senate bill. At the same time, Obama pledged, there would be no “blank check.”

Recalling “mixed results” from previous billions in aid, he said that “Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.”

But the White House and U.S. military commanders, citing Pakistani political sensitivities and the need for flexibility, would like to set their own metrics. (ANI)

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