The US State Department has approved a $125 million (€112 million) support program for Pakistan’s fleet of F-16 warplanes, days after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met US President Donald Trump to “reset” troubled US-Pakistani ties.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by protecting US technology through the continued presence of US personnel that provide 24/7 end-use monitoring,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
Read more: Opinion: Khan-Trump meeting – will Islamabad deliver to Washington?
The Pakistani government had requested the US reinstate its technical support for the F-16s, which are considered essential for the country’s defense.
On Monday, Khan and Trump agreed to bolster cooperation in Afghanistan to pressure Taliban militants to reach a peace deal.
Washington expects Islamabad to use its influence on the Taliban to force them to agree to a political settlement. The Taliban recently said they would visit Pakistan if Khan extends an invitation to them.
‘Restoration of ties’
After coming to power, Trump halted all so-called Foreign Military Sale (FMS) support programs for Pakistan after accusing Islamabad of not helping Washington in achieving its objectives in Afghanistan.
Read more: Why Afghanistan is skeptical of Donald Trump’s Pakistan outreach
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But lately, the US has taken a softer approach towards Pakistan and agreed to some important measures towards building confidence.
“The US-Pakistan military-to-military ties have been restored,” DW correspondent Anwar Iqbal said. “The release of funds was quite unexpected though,” he added.
Pro-democracy activists and rights groups in Pakistan fear US military support could embolden authorities to crack down on political opponents and independent media.
“It will raise the military’s profile at home, and it may also have a direct impact on those politicians who want to reduce the army’s influence in domestic politics,” Iqbal said.
In recent months, the security establishment has been accused of arresting dozens of workers of the Pashtun Tahafaz (Protection) Movement, or PTM, which has criticized the military’s actions in the tribal regions in western and northwestern parts of the country.
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Military balance in the region
The US State Department on Friday also approved $670 million for India’s C-17 transport planes.
“India needs this follow-on support to maintain its operational readiness and ability to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) assistance in the region,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
The agency said that the proposed sales of equipment and support “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
Iqbal said India “will not be pleased” with the US’ support for Pakistan’s F-16s.
“They oppose any military ties between the US and Pakistan,” he said.
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