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US confident F-16s for Pak won't upset India
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 17, 2008 11:49 IST
Both senior State Department and Pentagon officials appearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia at a hearing facetiously titled 'Defeating Al Qaeda's [Images] Air Force: Pakistan's F-16 Program in the Fight Against Terrorism' [Images], asserted that these weapons systems were indeed a boon to target the terrorists in Pakistan's tribal areas and unlikely to upset the regional arms balance vis-�-vis India.
"We are not saying that the F-16s have only a counter-terrorism use. They are obviously a part of Pakistan's national defence and they always have been, and what we have said very confidently is that the sale of these F-16s is not going to upset the regional balance," he said.
He said that 'those of us who have travelled to Pakistan have noticed that this is not just a military issue, this is not just certainly a President Musharraf issue. You travel the roads and you see brightly decorated trucks on Pakistani roads, they have F-16s emblazoned on the side. That has become a symbol of Pakistani pride if you will'.
Camp said, "Our willingness to provide F-16s has become an important symbol in Pakistan. This request of mid-life updates has come to us from the most senior members of the newly-elected civilian government. It's not just a military-to-military request."
Camp said, "One issue that we confront in Pakistan is the belief that the Americans are there in Pakistan and with Pakistan for short-term gains. The point we are trying to make repeatedly and we believe sincerely is that this must be a long-term partnership between the United States and Pakistan."
Camp said, "The point we want to make to Pakistan and we want to make it dramatically, is that we are there for the long-term."
"I do think there is sincerity on their part in taking on this counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations in the West and the Northwest quarter," he asserted, adding, "They have been doing it, indeed, air sorties dating back into 2007, indicate that they have taken on this challenge."
He argued, "This is not without some political cost to the leadership in Pakistan. These are air operations against the territory of Pakistan itself. So they are quite controversial with the Pakistani people, but absolutely essential for us."
"They are essential to our service management on the ground in Afghanistan. This is an essential activity to interdict these anti-coalition militants that are going across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan," he said, adding, "So our service management support this proposal."
Shivers continued, "If you look at our leadership in Afghanistan, they support this. If you look at our leadership within the Pentagon, it's all supportive of using FMF (foreign military financing) for mid-life upgrades for the F-16s."
He said, "We believe the Pakistanis will utilize them in the way that is prescribed here and they are seeking to get this equipment to be more effective. It's not without notice by the militants in the FATA that the Pakistani Air Force lacks capability at night currently. And, it is not without notice that the current capabilities of their F-16s are not effective in precision strikes and therefore these militants can cause civilian casualties, which we hope this upgrade program will hope to present."
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