Archive for June, 2010

Pakistan plans to buy 14 more F-16 jets from US

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is negotiating with the United States to buy 14 additional F-16 fighter planes, Pakistan defence officials said on Sunday, following talks aimed at reversing tempestuous ties between the allies.

The United States and Pakistan have agreed to fast-track pending Pakistani requests for military equipment as the two step up security cooperation, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday during a high-profile visit to Washington.

A senior Pakistani defence official told Reuters that Pakistan was asking for 14 new F-16 planes.

“Talks are underway and we’re hoping to get them at a low price,” the official, who requested not to be identified, said.

Pakistan is an important US ally in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The United States has provided F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad and Pakistan’s navy chief was in Washington this month to discuss the handover in August of a refurbished US frigate.

Washington said this month it would deliver 1,000 laser-guided bomb kits to Pakistan within weeks and is considering more weapons sales to help the Pakistani air force crack down on insurgents in the Afghanistan border region.

In early 2010, the United States approved the delivery of 12 Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-16C and 6 F-16D planes, scheduled to begin from June 2010.

This delivery to Pakistan will bring its inventory of the planes to 54. If a new deal is approved, Pakistan’s arsenal of F-16s, including refurbished fighters, will amount to 79, defence officials said. Pakistan has been operating F-16s since 1982.

Another official said Pakistan’s interest in new F-16s was a bid to match India’s firepower.

“Look at the rival (India). How many fighter jets they are purchasing and if you’re getting them at a low price then why not?” he said.

India plans to buy 126 air and ground attack fighters, which will elevate its air force to super-power status, with deployments planned near the borders with Pakistan and China, officials say.

One bone of contention between Washington and Islamabad has been a delay in about $2 billion in military aid owed by the United States to Pakistan under a programme called the Coalition Support Fund.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a “substantial” amount of the money would be paid by the end of April, with Washington promising the remainder by the end of June.

June 27, 2010 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Four militants killed in US drone attacks in Pak tribal region

US drones struck a compound in the restive North Waziristan tribal region of northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least four militants, officials said.

The spy plane fired three missiles at the compound in Tablai Tal area, 30 km north of Miranshah, a key town in North Waziristan.

It could not immediately be ascertained if any foreigners were among the four militants killed in the attack, officials said.

The US has stepped up drone strikes in North Waziristan to flush out al-Qaeda and Taliban elements that target US-led allied forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of people have been killed in dozens of drone attacks since January.

Four militants were killed and five more injured in a drone attack on Saturday.

June 27, 2010 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Osama hiding in Pakistan tribal area: CIA chief

WASHINGTON: It has been years since the United States has had good intelligence on the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin laden, although he is thought to be in Pakistan, CIA director Leon Panetta said on Sunday.

He also gave a sobering account of the war in Afghanistan, saying the Taliban seemed to be strengthening with a stepped-up campaign of violence, even as U.S.-led forces undermine the Islamist movement with attacks on its leadership.

Progress is being made in the nearly nine-year-old conflict but “it’s harder, it’s slower than I think anyone anticipated,” Panetta said on program of a foreign news channel. He did not directly answer a question about whether the war was being won.

A harsh spotlight was thrown on the U.S. strategy last week when President Barack Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal as his top commander in Afghanistan and replaced him with General David Petraeus.

Now U.S. lawmakers from both parties are demanding more answers about the war’s progress. Some will be putting these questions to Petraeus at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Not since “the early 2000s” have U.S. officials had “the last precise information about where he (bin Laden) might be located,” Panetta said.

“Since then, it’s been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location,” Panetta said. “He is, as is obvious, in very deep hiding … He’s in an area of the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Denying the world’s most wanted man safe haven on the lawless Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been an aim of Western policy since the September 11 attacks in 2001, when the Taliban in effect spurned a U.S. demand to hand over the al Qaeda chief.

Panetta said the United States still believed it could ultimately “flush out” bin Laden, noting it had already “taken down” more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.

In recent months, the CIA has ramped up the pace of unmanned drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, targeting not only high-level al Qaeda and Taliban targets but unknown foot soldiers as well.

Taliban militants, Panetta said, “with regards to some of the directed violence, they seem to be stronger. But the fact is, we are undermining their leadership and that I think is moving in the right direction.”

He said a Taliban leader who was dressed as a woman was killed over the weekend in a military operation.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the war began in late 2001, with the Taliban stepping up suicide bombings and assassinations, particularly in their Kandahar heartland.

Some 80 foreign soldiers have been killed so far in June, making it the deadliest month ever for international forces. More than 300 troops have been killed this year compared with about 520 for all of 2009.

Panetta said the key to success was not just in U.S. and allied efforts but whether Afghan security forces will be able to take over and maintain stability.

“This is not going to be easy,” he said. “It is going to take the Afghan army and police to be able to accept the responsibility that we pass on to them.”

Panetta said he had not seen any firm intelligence that there was a real interest in reconciliation among al Qaeda, the Taliban or the Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban.

June 27, 2010 Posted Under: News update   Read More

U.S.-Made F-16’s Headed to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Brand new, U.S.-manufactured, F-16 fighter planes are set to fly in to Pakistan on Saturday for the first time since new F-16s were bought by the country in the early 1980s, in an example of a relationship that has hovered between close proximity to periods of cooling off.

On Saturday, three F-16 fighter planes will arrive in Pakistan as part of an eventual delivery of 18 new F-16 fighter planes that Pakistan ordered from the U.S. in a deal worth US$1.4 billion, according to Pakistan’s air force officials and U.S. officials.

But the history of the supply of F-16s to Pakistan has been troubled. After supplying 40 new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan in the 1980s to boost Islamabad as a frontline state against the occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union, the U.S. slapped military and economic sanctions against Pakistan in 1990 to punish Islamabad for attempting to manufacture nuclear bombs.

Those sanctions failed to stop Pakistan from continuing with its nuclear weapons development program and carrying out its first set of nuclear tests in 1998.

However, relations between Pakistan and the U.S. were revived after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks forced the two countries to join hands against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the past decade, Pakistan has been supplied with used F-16 fighter planes by the U.S., to help the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) carry out its operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but Saturday’s arrival of the F-16s will be the first time that new planes of this particular type will be inducted since the early 1980s.

“This is a milestone event. We are very pleased to finally see the US share some of its modern age technology with Pakistan,” said a PAF official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

But analysts warned that many Pakistanis still remain skeptical of ties with the U.S. in view of the memories of past sanctions.

“You travel around this country and you realize how emotional this issue continues to be,” Anjum Rahman, a TV show host for Pakistan’s Express TV channel told CBS News. “People still see the suspension of future F-16 deliveries from 1990 onwards “as an era that brings back unfortunate memories.”

On the streets of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, there are many who remember the Pak-U.S. history of ties in relation to the F-16s.

“In the 1980s, images of the F-16 were painted on so many buses and trucks as Pakistan celebrated the arrival of the world’s most modern jet fighter. Even if the Americans now give us new planes, how will anyone erase the memories of an entire nation?” asked Barkat Khan, an Islamabad school teacher.

While PAF officials are preparing to receive delivery of the new planes enthusiastically, their ability to tackle skepticism on the streets is limited. “We can only perform the best possible service but we can’t tell people, how and what to think,” concluded the PAF official.

June 26, 2010 Posted Under: News update   Read More