Washington: The US is reviewing if Pakistan
violated its legal obligations while sending to Sudan three
helicopters given to it by Washington for use in the war
against terrorism, a Pentagon spokesman has said.
"We are reviewing the available facts to determine
whether the deployment of the helicopters to Sudan was an
appropriate use of the helicopters and in keeping with
Pakistan`s legal obligations," Pentagon spokesman Col Dave
Lapan told a news agency yesterday.
The Wall Street Journal in a news story yesterday had said
that US paid millions to refurbish four Mi-17 helicopters to
help Pakistan`s army transport troops into battle against
Taliban and other militants in areas bordering Afghanistan.
But, Pakistani ended up diverting three of those aircraft to
peacekeeping duties in Sudan operations for which Islamabad
receives compensation from the United Nations.
The issue was first raised by Congressman Howard Berman,
Ranking Member House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in a letter
to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, early this month.
"I commend Pakistan`s active participation in UN
peacekeeping missions, but Pakistan`s apparent use of these
helicopters in Sudan is a blatant violation of the agreement
we concluded with Islamabad," Berman said in a letter to
Hillary dated May 5.
"The helicopters were intended to improve Pakistan`s
ability to conduct counterinsurgency operations and were
provided on grounds that Pakistan was desperate for airlift
capability to fight terrorists," he said.
He said that the diversion of any aircraft regardless of
origin will be a stark example of Pakistan`s insufficient
political will to tackle the terrorist problem.
"We understand the Pakistan Army dispatched three Mi-17s
to Sudan to participate in UN peacekeeping operations and that
these helicopters had been overhauled using US security
cooperation funds from the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund
appropriation," Lapan said.
"We do not know precisely why the Mi-17s were sent to
Sudan; however, we do note that Pakistan`s participation in
the UN operation has been an ongoing and continuous operation,
and that this involves a routine rotation of the Pakistan
Mi-17 fleet that began before the helicopters were
overhauled," he said.
"We further understand that these helicopters were not
purchased with US funds, however, and that they were used in
counterinsurgency operations in the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas (FATA) prior to rotating to Sudan," Lapan said.
These helicopters were given to Pakistan as its armed
forces are in critical need of transportation of its soldiers
in the tribal areas in the war against terrorism, the former
National Security Advisor Gen (rtd) James Jones told lawmakers
at a Congressional hearing yesterday.
"The critical need of the Pakistani military is
mobility. It`s not terribly sophisticated, but its
helicopters and transportation, rapidly and otherwise.
need help in rebuilding their local enforcement capabilities,
law enforcement capabilities. I used the example of the Swat
Valley, where two divisions are permanently tied down there
because there`s no way to transition to anything; there`s just
no infrastructure," Jones said in response to a question at a
hearing on Pakistan convened by the Senate Foreign Relations
"If you were to have a discussion with the Pakistani
military, they would pivot into the direction of saying, look,
you say we`re strategically important, and this is the key to
kind of the region and what you want to do in Afghanistan, but
in terms of the quantity of military aid that we`ve received
-- helicopters and the instruments that they feel that they`re
in short supply that we haven`t done much," Jones said.