WASHINGTON: The ongoing military operation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) forced the Haqqani network to relocate, said US Secretary of State John Kerry while defending the Obama administration’s decision to sell eight F-16 aircraft to Pakistan.

The network’s presence in Fata was used as the main argument against the proposed sale during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

“They continue to support the Taliban, the Haqqani network and to give safe haven to Al Qaeda,” said Senator Bob Corker while opposing the proposed sale.

Congressional hearing turns into debate on Pakistan-US ties

“They drove the Haqqani network into new locations. And it’s an ongoing process,” said Secretary Kerry while rejecting the senator’s argument. But he acknowledged that some “entities” were still there, “complicat(ing) our efforts very significantly.”

Mr Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday to defend the administration’s budget for 2017, which provides $50.1 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of State and the US Agency for International Aid.

“We are helping Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter violent extremism,” Secretary Kerry told the lawmakers while explaining why the administration was seeking $742 million for Pakistan as well. The hearing turned into a mini-debate on America’s ‘complicated’ relations with Pakistan.

Senator Corker, who chairs the committee, accused Pakistan of practising “outright blatant duplicity”, as it maintained friendly ties with the US but continued to support the extremists as well.

He claimed that a “tremendous amount of US taxpayers’ money” had gone into Waziristan, changing “the context of those areas” and yet they did not stop supporting militants.

He then moved to Islamabad’s request for purchasing eight F-16 aircraft from the United States and pledged to continue opposing the deal if Pakistan did not stop the alleged duplicity.

Mr Kerry assured the senator that the State Department had evaluated ‘all aspects of the counterterrorism efforts” with respect to Pakistan’s impact on Afghanistan.

He said that a few weeks ago, he met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Switzerland and discussed US concerns about the need to “rein in particular terrorist groups that are either home-grown in Pakistan or are using Pakistan as a sanctuary”.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2016



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