Defeating al-Qaeda's Air Force: Pakistan's F-16 Program in the Fight Against Terrorism!

Defeating al-Qaeda's Air Force: Pakistan's F-16 Program in the Fight Against Terrorism
Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and
Statement Before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on South Asia, Washington, DC - September 16, 2008

Chairman Ackerman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to address you today on Pakistan’s F-16 program.

On February 18 of this year, the Pakistani people went to the polls and elected moderate leaders who are working to set a stable, prosperous, democratic path for Pakistan into the future. The journey along this path is going to be a difficult one as Pakistan faces increasing economic challenges and the serious threat of growing instability in the border regions. The United States wants to see this new government succeed, not only because it represents the desires of the Pakistani people but because we believe that a moderate government with a democratic mandate is the most effective partner in the fight against terrorists and violent extremism.

During Prime Minister Gillani’s visit to Washington in late July, you saw the United States and Pakistan committed to maintaining and strengthening our broad-based partnership, and the United States committed to steps that can help Pakistan deal with economic problems and increase its effectiveness in countering the extremist threat. The Administration’s request to re-direct Foreign Military

Financing in 2008 and beyond to support F-16 Mid-Life Updates speaks directly to these two commitments. Updates to Pakistan’s F-16s will make these aircraft far more effective against terrorist targets, while helping with these payments will provide the newly-elected Pakistani government valuable fiscal flexibility as they deal with rising food and fuel prices.

Mr. Chairman, my colleagues and I represent the Administration’s commitment to the F-16 program and we ask for your support to approve the Administration’s request to re-direct the remaining $110 million in 2008 Foreign

Military Financing for the Mid-Life Update and an additional $142 million in the future. The new Government of Pakistan stands behind these requests and has committed to assume subsequent payments with national funds beginning in December 2009.

F-16s Defined U.S.-Pakistan Engagement

The sale of F-16s to Pakistan became a transformative element of the U.S.- Pakistan bilateral relationship over 20 years ago, and this historical context is important to understand and remember as we determine how to handle the questions of F-16 financing today. Not only a component of Pakistan’s national defense, the F-16 has become an iconic symbol of our bilateral relationship and our commitment to each other.

In the early 1980s, the U.S. government initially agreed to sell Pakistan 111 F-16 aircraft. This decision was influenced by our close partnership with Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By October 1990, however, Pressler sanctions were imposed when President (George Herbert Walker) Bush was unable to certify that Pakistan was not developing a nuclear weapon. The Pressler sanctions led to a decade-long suspension of security assistance to Pakistan and a deficit of trust between our two countries that we are still working to overcome. The suspension of our security assistance programs required under Pressler meant the suspension and eventual cancellation of an additional sale of F-16 aircraft that would have augmented the 40 F-16s Pakistan purchased in 1982. That cancellation has been viewed as a symbol of the collapse of our relationship during the 1990s, a period which remains highly emotional for many Pakistanis. The suspension of our security assistance also precluded Pakistani military officers from attending U.S. military schools, which has produced nearly a generation of Pakistani military officers who have not traveled to the United States to learn sideby- side with American officers.

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