WASHINGTON: The Obama administration informed Congress on Friday that it planned to sell 160 ambush-proof vehicles to Pakistan at a total cost of $198 million.
Pakistani troops in North Waziristan are using over 20 such vehicles, known as MRAPs (Mine Resistance Ambush Protected), in operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, defence sources in Washington told Dawn.
The vehicles “have been very useful in preventing terrorist attacks on the troops operating in North Waziristan,” the sources said.
However, they added, the sale announced on Friday was separate from “the arrangement for North Waziristan”.
MRAPs are already being used in North Waziristan
Pakistan will also get spare and repair parts for the vehicles.
Pakistan had requested expedited delivery of a limited number of MRAPs before Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the United States obliged with about two dozen vehicles from their stock, they added.
US troops also use these vehicles in Afghanistan, where the MRAPs “have proven very effective in preventing ambushes using improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” a defence source said.
Hundreds of US soldiers were killed in IED attacks in Afghanistan before the introduction of these vehicles.
“They also saved hundreds of lives in North Waziristan,” the source said.
The US is in the process of moving out its weapons from Afghanistan as it prepares for a complete withdrawal by the end of 2016. But the vehicles delivered to Pakistan did not come from Afghanistan.
MIXED PACKAGE: The deal notified to Congress on Friday is a mixed package, including vehicles that are already in stock and can be delivered in a month or two and those that will have to be built and delivered, which may take a year. None of these will come from Afghanistan.
The US State Department, which has already approved the sale, informed Congress that the proposed sale would contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US “by helping to improve the security of a country vital of US foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia”.
The notification also clarified that the sale would have no adverse effect on US defence readiness nor will it disturb the basic military balance in South Asia.
Diplomatic sources in Washington noted that the State Department’s nod comes as Pakistan is engaged in Operation Zarb-i-Azb, and has also launched a similar action in Khyber Agency.
In a statement issued in Washington, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said Pakistan had requested a possible sale of 160 Navistar MRAP vehicles to include field ambulances and recovery vehicles with protection kits.
The deal also includes support and test equipment, personnel training and equipment training, US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and programme support.
“The proposed sale of MRAPs will ensure that Pakistan can effectively operate in hazardous areas in a safe, enhanced survivability vehicle, and improves Pakistan’s interoperability with US forces,” the US defence agency informed Congress.
By acquiring this capability, “Pakistan will be able to provide the same level of protection for its own forces as the United States provides for its forces.”
The statement also noted that Pakistan, which currently possesses MRAPs, has successfully demonstrated the ability to operate and maintain the vehicles in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, and will have no difficulty absorbing these additional vehicles into its armed forces.
The principal contractor will be Navistar Defence Corporation in Madison Heights, Michigan. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of the proposed sale will require approximately two US government and 24 contractor representatives in Pakistan for 18 months to perform inspections and de-processing of vehicles upon delivery.
They will also provide assistance in installation of vehicle accessory kits; provide fault diagnosis and repairs; perform corrective maintenance, to include accident and battle damage assessment and repairs.
During their stay in Pakistan, these contract representatives will also conduct operator and maintainer training; and conduct inventories and maintain accountability of US provided material.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2014