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Pak seeks advanced US choppers to hunt Al-Qaeda

June 16, 2010 19:18 IST

Pakistan has sought advanced US attack helicopters, Unmaned Aerial Vehicles and other weapons under a whopping $2.5 billion arms 'wish list' to bolster its hunt for Al-Qaeda's senior leadership hiding in the country's unruly northwest.

The arms that Pakistan has requested includes new helicopter gunships, including AH-1W and the Apache-64-D; armed helicopters, such as the AH-6 and MD-530 Little Bird; and utility and cargo helicopters, such as the UH-60 Black Hawk, the CH-47 D Chinook and the UH-1Y Huey, The Washington Times reported on Wednesday.

"I have been ambassador here for two years, and all I have to show for it is eight secondhand Mi-17 transport helicopters for a war that requires helicopters to root out Al Qaeda and the Taliban," Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"Military operations would have been quicker and much easier to plan and execute if we had the equipment. We have had tremendous attrition and a lot of loss of lives because of not having the right equipment," Haqqani said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the US is aware of Pakistan's military wish list.

"The Pakistani military's interest in additional lift is well-known, and we have tried to help meet their needs by providing several Mi-17s. We will continue to try to help them acquire the helicopters and other equipment they require to defeat the insurgents and terrorists in their midst," he said.

Pakistan's military last year reversed its policy of signing cease-fire agreements with local tribal governors as it did in 2007 and 2008 in the regions thought to be hiding places for senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Pakistani military officials have said their forces have a total of just 26 combat and transport helicopters for a counterinsurgency war in a mountainous region where helicopters provide a critical advantage.

The Pakistani wish list also includes equipment that is not traditionally associated with counterinsurgency or mountain warfare. They are also requesting M1A1 tanks and M113A3 armoured personnel carriers, as well as air-defence missiles, such as the Stinger, the Javelin and the Hawk.

The CIA operates UAVs in Pakistan for missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Senator Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he was waiting for an assessment from the State Department and the Pentagon before commenting on the Pakistani arms request.

Pakistan has declined to send its troops into North Waziristan. Pakistani officials say they lack the helicopters to fight in the region.

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