Washington: The Obama administration bypassing the US Congress has decided to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter jets as recognition to its support is fighting terror in Afghanistan. The overture intended to bolster a tenuous partnership despite persistent concerns about Islamabad’s ties to elements of the Taliban and quickly expanding nuclear arsenal.
The decision comes ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which is to be dominated by the president’s decision to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan and a quiet effort to get Sharif to halt the deployment of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons.
But Obama, like President George W Bush before him, is trying to balance pressure on Pakistan with signs that Washington still considers it a vital ally. Congress was notified just days ago about the proposed sale of the additional fighters, although it is not clear if the White House plans to announce the sale of the aircraft during the visit.
The Federation of American Scientists, a leading US group that monitors the spread of nuclear weapons, published a report on Wednesday that shows that Pakistan has expanded its arsenal to between 110 and 130 warheads, up from a range of 90 to 110 four years ago.