The House International Relations Committee will convene tomorrow for a hearing on the Bush administration’s five-billion dollar sale of F-16 aircraft and weapons systems to Pakistan. Traditionally, the White House consults with Congress on security concerns in such deals, but in recent negotiations with Pakistan, the Bush administration has bypassed congressional oversight. The hearing tomorrow will address whether the president has taken adequate steps to include Congress in its decision-making.
Over the past three years, the Center for American Progress has argued that the United States’ relationship with Pakistan, formed during pursuit of the war on terror, has potentially dangerous consequences. The Bush administration continues to reward Pakistan financially and diplomatically despite strong evidence of its high-level involvement in a global nuclear proliferation network and apparent sympathies with Islamic fundamentalists in the nuclear establishment.
In 2004, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the godfather of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, announced that he passed nuclear information and technology to countries including Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Currently, Congress worries that selling advanced military equipment to Pakistan will open the door for Pakistan’s allies, such as China, to access the technology as well.
Although tensions have lessened during the past few years, the commuter rail bombings in Mubai yesterday highlight the fact that conflict between India and Pakistan can escalate at any moment. U.S. cooperation with India on nuclear energy and simultaneous sales of weapons to Pakistan certainly holds the threat of encouraging tensions in the area.
Cooperation with Pakistan, particularly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border could aid the eventual capture of Osama bin Laden, and certainly helps operations against border-region militants. Yet, are F-16s the price that the United States must pay for that cooperation?
At the very least, the United States cannot sacrifice American security without utilizing the oversight of Congress in the decision making. Furthermore, the Bush administration must solicit assurance from Pakistan that American technology will not end up on the black market, and that the country will move toward a more democratic government, steer anti-American groups away from violence and into politics, and raise human rights standards.
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