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US Gives Pakistan Eight Attack Helicopters To Fight Militants February 2, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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ISLAMABAD (AP)–The U.S. gave eight attack helicopters to Pakistan on Friday, bolstering the key U.S. ally’s ability to combat Taliban and al-Qaida militants suspected of attacking neighboring Afghanistan from Pakistan’s border areas.

The Pakistani army took possession of the Cobra AH1-F helicopters at Qasim air base, near Islamabad, the U.S. Embassy said. Another 12 Cobras are to be delivered later in a military aid package worth a total of $50 million, it said.

The refurbished helicopters, which are specially equipped for nighttime operations, are “important weapons in our common fight,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said at the hand-over ceremony, according to an embassy statement.

Afghanistan, the U.S. and the NATO-led coalition fighting Taliban and al-Qaida rebels in Afghanistan are urging Pakistan to do more to stop the insurgents from using Pakistan’s remote border areas to launch attacks.

Pakistan insists it is doing all it can, pointing to the loss of hundreds of soldiers in operations against militants near the border with Afghanistan. President Pervez Musharraf said Friday that Pakistan will soon begin erecting fencing to reinforce the long, mountainous frontier.

“We understand and appreciate the very real sacrifices that Pakistan is making in the war on terror,” Crocker said.

Pakistan, which already has 19 Cobras, has been a vital U.S. ally since it dropped its support for Afghanistan’s Taliban government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Since then, Washington has given Pakistan about $6 billion in security-related assistance. It also agreed last year to sell F-16 fighter planes to Islamabad as part of a separate $5 billion package.

Washington scrapped the long-sought deal in the 1990s as it imposed sanctions over Pakistan’s nuclear program but changed tack as a reward for helping it in the war on terror.

However, legislation introduced in January in the U.S. Congress that would tie U.S. military aid to Pakistan’s performance against militants is threatening those close ties.

“Such conditionality would be counterproductive” Crocker said.

Crocker said the aircraft deals “demonstrate the long-term commitment of the United States to all aspects of our strategic partnership with Pakistan.”

The U.S. government has said it will seek changes to the bill before it is presented to President George W. Bush for signing into law.

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