The Biden administration has approved a $450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan to help it meet current and future counterterrorism threats, in Washington's first major security assistance to Islamabad in four years.
In 2018, Biden's predecessor Donald Trump had suspended about $2 billion in security aid to Islamabad for failing to clamp down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups and dismantle their safe havens in the country.
In a notification to the US Congress on Wednesday, the State Department said it has approved a possible foreign military sale of F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of $450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad's capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the Congress of this possible sale on Wednesday.
"The United States Government has notified Congress of a proposed Foreign Military Sales case to sustain the Pakistan Air Force's F-16 programme. Pakistan is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms," a State Department spokesperson said.
"Pakistan's F-16 programme is an important part of the broader United States-Pakistan bilateral relationship. The proposed sale will sustain Pakistan's capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet. The F-16 fleet allows Pakistan to support counterterrorism operations and we expect Pakistan to take sustained action against all terrorist groups," the spokesperson said.
According to the Congressional notification, the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions.
It said that Pakistan has requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements.
The $450 million foreign military sale to Pakistan participation in F-16 Aircraft Structural Integrity Programme, electronic combat international security assistance programme, international engine management programme, engine component improvement programme, and other technical coordination groups; aircraft and engine hardware and software modifications and support and aircraft and engine spare repair/return parts.
The Pentagon said this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.
"The proposed sale will continue the sustainment of Pakistan's F-16 fleet, which greatly improves Pakistan's ability to support counterterrorism operations through its robust air-to-ground capability. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces," it said.
According to the Congressional notification, the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.