View Full Version : U.S. To Help Upgrade Pakistan Fighter Fleet

07-25-2008, 07:52 AM
US to help upgrade Pakistan fighter fleet



The United States confirmed Thursday that it planned to shift 230 million dollars in aid to Pakistan from counter-terrorism programs to upgrading the country's F-16 fighter jets.

Asked about an article in The New York Times detailing the shift, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters "that story is accurate" but said the airplanes would be used for counter-terrorism operations.

The announcement came days before Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was to meet Monday with US President George W. Bush at the White House for talks expected to focus on cooperation in battling Islamist extremists.

"The F-16s that they have are used in counter-terrorism operations. We made them available to the Pakistanis and they need to be maintained," Perino said.

Pakistan's new government "is facing a lot of pressure from a severe fiscal situation" stemming partly from soaring food and energy costs, and "they need assistance from the United States," the spokeswoman said.

But the Times reported that some US lawmakers have greeted the proposed shift with anger, saying that Pakistan does not use its F-16s in support of the campaign against fighters in its remote tribal areas out of a fear that civilian casualties could fuel support for the extremists.

Asked what the United States would get in return for the move, Perino replied: "The F-16s are used in their counter-terrorism operations, so we get support in our national security efforts."

The package for the fighters would run about two-thirds of the 300 million dollars that Pakistan will get this year in US aid for military equipment and training, the Times said.

In 2007, US lawmakers specified that the monies should to go to law enforcement or counter-terrorism.

The daily cited unnamed US State Department officials as saying that the upgrades would sharpen the fighters' ability to carry out accurate air strikes, reducing civilian casualties.