The US has defended a proposed arms deal worth nearly a billion dollar with Pakistan to back its counter-terrorism operations, saying the sale of advanced attack helicopters and missiles to the country is vital to America’s security goals in South Asia.
The USD 952 million deal approved by the State Department involves the US supplying Pakistan with 15 AH-1Z attack helicopters, 1,000 Hellfire missiles, engines, targeting and positioning systems and other equipment.
Notification for the proposed sale has been sent by Defence Security Cooperation Agency to Congress on Monday.
“This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency, however, said that the sale of the equipment and support will “not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
The deal would also contribute to the “foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to US foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia.”
Pakistan had requested 15 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, 32 T-700 GE 401C Engines (30 installed and 2 spares), 1000 AGM-114 R Hellfire II Missiles in containers, 36 H-1 Technical Refresh Mission computers, among other defence equipment.
The proposed sale includes a “precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft” that Pakistan can operate at high-altitudes.
“By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments,” it said.
Pakistan’s volatile northwest has been fiercely battling homegrown Taliban insurgency that was revived in 2004. The country’s army have been engaged in a full-scale offensive against the militants in North Waziristan since last year.
In December, Taliban gunmen killed 154 people, most of them students, in an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar.
The proposed sale of defence equipment by the US is to be implemented over a period of five and a half years, involving technical support, training by American personnel.
The US’ announcement came days after China confirmed that it plans to sell eight submarines to Pakistan for nearly USD 5 billion.(Outlook)