The Pentagon on Friday notified the United States Congress that it had decided to approve military sales of $125 million to Pakistan that would include 24x7 end-use monitoring of the F-16 fighter jets in the country. However, United States officials claimed that the freeze in security assistance to Pakistan that began in January last year was still in place.
In a statement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the proposed sale will support foreign policy and the national security of the United States by protecting its technology with continued US personnel presence, which provides for “24/7 end-use monitoring”. “Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 60 contractor representatives to Pakistan to assist in the oversight of operations as part of the Peace Drive F-16 program.” The agency further said that the proposal would not alter the military balance in Pakistan or in “the region”.
A spokesperson of the United States State Department reiterated to PTI that there had been no change in the suspension of security assistance to Pakistan. “As the president reiterated this week [after a bilateral meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan], we could consider the restoration of certain security assistance programmes consistent with the broader tenor of our relationship,” PTI quoted the spokesperson as saying.
According to the US defence agency’s statement, the Pakistan government had requested continued technical support, including United States government and contractor technical and logistics support, and other related aspects of logistical support in order to assist in the “oversight of operations in support of the Pakistan Peace Drive advanced F-16 program”.
The programme has increased the total number of F-16 fighter jets ordered by Pakistan to 54. The Pakistan Air Force had received its first F-16 in 1982.
This development comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met United States President Donald Trump. The meeting had triggered a controversy after Trump claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. India denied his claims, but the United States said that the “president [Trump] does not make things up”. Pakistan also welcomed Trump’s offer with Khan claiming that bilateral talks between the two countries would not be able to resolve the dispute.