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Biden Takes Bush to Task Over Sale of F-16 Jet Fighters to PakistanTim King Salem-News.com
This is not the first time the United States has sold or attempted to sell F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The Bush Administration has awarded a $500 million contract to supply Pakistan with 18 F-16 military fighter jets. The Pentagon made the announcement late in the day on December 31st, stating that it had approved the sale of the planes to Pakistan, with the deal awarded to Lockheed Martin.
President Bush's decision to sell the planes comes at a time when this politically strained country is reeling from the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It is also occupied by countless numbers of jihadists, many of whom use Pakistan as an entry point to Afghanistan.
The reports do not make clear whether the planes will be paid for by Pakistan, or by U.S. aid, or a combination of both. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. said that if any U.S. aid is involved, the sale is illegal.
"The recently passed Defense Appropriations bill bars any assistance to Pakistan for weapons sales that are not for counter-terrorism purposes. The primary purpose of F-16s is to balance India, not to combat the Taliban or Al Qaeda. If the sale involves no U.S. assistance, it is technically legal but fundamentally misguided."
In Biden's words, the decision to go ahead with a half-billion dollar sale of advanced fighter aircraft to Pakistan shows how dangerously misguided President Bush's policy is.
"How can the White House even think of green-lighting such a sale at such an incredibly sensitive time? It sends exactly the wrong message to the Pakistani generals, and to the Pakistani people. This is the time we should be putting the pressure on the government and military to fully investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and to hold free and fair elections – not let them off the hook."
Biden called for a possible suspension of big-ticket military sales like F-16s to Pakistan the day after President Musharraf announced his State of Emergency. Biden says he did it to warn Musharraf that his acts would have consequences.
"Just before Christmas, Congress enacted legislation to prevent the Administration from taking exactly this sort of reckless action. The Administration's decision is just plain wrong and should be reversed, immediately, until Pakistan returns clearly to the democratic path."
This is not the first time the United States has sold or attempted to sell F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force currently has the F-16A/B model in operation.
Their pilots have used the plane for what it is meant to be used for, in fact Pakistan was the second nation, after Israel, to use the F-16 in combat. That was during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 where they reportedly brought down three enemy aircraft.
Between May 1986 and November of 1988, Pakistan's Air Force F-16s shot down at least eight intruders from Afghanistan. At least one F-16 was lost in these battles, this one in an encounter between two F-16s and six Afghan Air Force aircraft on April 29th, 1987. However, the lost F-16 appears to have been an 'own goal', having been hit by a Sidewinder fired by the other F-16. The unfortunate F-16 pilot, Flight Lieutenant Shahid Sikandar Khan, ejected safely.
Pakistan has ordered a total of 111 F-16A/B aircraft from the United States. Of these, 71 were embargoed by the US due to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. 28 of those 71 were actually built but were flown directly to a U.S. Air Force storage site.
Over the years, F-16.net reports, various plans were conceived for these 28 aircraft: Pakistan wanted to get the aircraft or their money back, and they were offered to various nations, none of which were interested. Ultimately, the US Navy and USAF entered them into service as aggressor aircraft. It is unknown if these particular 18 aircraft have anything to do with any from the original lot of aircraft designated for Pakistan.
Another historical note from the Afghan War period is that the United States offered the sell Pakistan the first F-16's, but refused to include an aspect of the weapons system that greatly reduced the effectiveness of the aircraft's capabilities.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with almost twenty years experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist and reporter. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated only with Google News. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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