has threatened to buy advanced Russian or Chinese combat jets after
Washington withdrew financing for a US arms purchase amid a weakening of
its strategic relationship with Islamabad.
The US and Pakistan have long had close ties and jointly supported the
Taliban rebels who drove Soviet invaders out of Afghanistan in 1989. But
the 9/11 terror attacks, masterminded by al-Qaeda from Afghan soil,
ushered in a more complex period in which US forces helped overthrow the
Taliban regime. The US continues to fight the group’s militants while
Pakistan gives them haven.
Washington is also upset by Pakistan’s support for other Islamist terror
organisations, while President Barack Obama has said Islamabad is moving
“in the wrong direction” by adopting battlefield atomic weapons that
increase the risk of a nuclear conflict with India.
Although the US has not cancelled the sale of the eight additional F16s
for $700m, it has withdrawn the offer of US credit for the contract
because members of Congress from both main parties are demanding what
one called “behavioural changes” from Pakistan so that it stops
“First the Americans gave us F16s in the 1980s when Pakistan was a close
ally and suspended their sale in 1990 only to resume the sale after the
9/11 attacks,” says one former Pakistan Air Force general. “Even if this
immediate matter is resolved, no one in Islamabad will trust the
Americans. I fear the feeling in Pakistan’s policy circles is
increasingly to go to the Russians and the Chinese for other planes that
come with a more reliable supply assurance.”