F-16 and $600 mn en route to Pakistan: Pentagon
Washington: Asserting that the sale of F-16 to Pakistan is a sign of burgeoning relationship between the two countries, the Pentagon on Thursday said that another USD 600 million is en route to Islamabad in the next few weeks.
At the same time, the Pentagon official observed that sending more US personnel to the country and their visa continue to be a major bottleneck.
"The F-16 sale is a sign of this burgeoning relationship between us and increased defence cooperation between our two countries. So the personnel that are going there in advance of the arrival of those planes is to assist the Pakistanis so that they can operate these sophisticated warplanes," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
The United States is sending some 50 additional personnel to Pakistan in June, accompanying for new F-16 fighter jets; thus increasing the number of American boots on the ground by 25 percent. At present there are about 200 US military personnel in Pakistan.
As another sign of progress in the relationship, Morrell said the Pentagon has made great strides over the past few weeks to try to accelerate reimbursement payments to the Pakistanis.
"I think, in total about USD 600 million that is en route or will soon be en route in the next few weeks to Pakistan to reimburse them for their operations over the past year," he said.
"There are still outstanding receipts that need to be reimbursed, and those will take place hopefully on a quicker timetable than they traditionally had," he said, adding that there has been some concern on the Pakistanis` part about the rate at which they are reimbursed for coalition support funds.
"One of the things that`s been problematic in the past is sort of trying to get enough of our personnel in country to assist them with this so that we can move this more quickly. And so we`ve been urging the Pakistanis to provide more visas for our personnel to work in the embassy there," Morrell said.
"I think we`ve seen some progress on that count, but there probably is still more that could be done so that we could be more helpful to them with regards to getting money back -- which they clearly, given the fiscal situation that they`re in, are in need of as well," he said.
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