US approves $125m support package for Pakistan's F-16s

Washington (IANS) The US has approved $125 million worth of support for Pakistan's F-16 warplanes, days after Prime Minister Imran Khan's ice-breaking visit to Washington where he met President Donald Trump.

Approval to support US-built aircraft was approved by the US State Department on Friday and announced simultaneously by the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

"The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for Technical Security Team (TST) in continued support of the F-16 programme for an estimated cost of $125 million," the DSCA said in a statement.

The Congress has been notified in this regard.

The government of Pakistan requested a continuation of technical support services, which includes US government and contractor technical and logistics support services. The request also included other related elements of logistics support to assist in the oversight of operations in support of the Pakistan Peace Drive advanced F-16 programme. 

The total estimated programme cost is $125 million.

The potential sale will support US foreign policy and national security "by protecting US technology through the continued presence of US personnel that provide 24/7 end-use monitoring," the State Department said.

It added that the proposed sales of equipment and support "will not alter the basic military balance in the region".

The Trump administration had in January 2018 halted all Foreign Military Sale support programmes for Pakistan after accusing it of not helping Washington in achieving its objectives in Afghanistan. 

But during Khan's July 20-23 visit to Washington, both sides announced they were now on the same page on Afghanistan, according to Pakistan media reports.

The Pakistani leader said that he would soon call Taliban leaders to Islamabad to persuade them to hold direct talks with the Taliban. 

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