Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 7:51 a.m.
Don't let the dull headline "Plan Would Use Antiterror Aid on Pakistani Jets" stop you from reading Eric Schmitt's excellent story in this morning's Times about the Pakistan/F-16 scam.
For once, a Times story puts the context right in the story, instead of forcing curious readers to Google it.
If you are curious about the context of this F-16 scam/scheme, you could always read my April 2005 item, "Arms for the Poor: Bush regime sells Lockheed-style democracy to Pakistan and India."
But let's give the Times some props for what it did this morning. Here's Schmitt's lede:
The Bush administration plans to shift nearly $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counterterrorism programs to upgrading that country’s aging F-16 attack planes, which Pakistan prizes more for their contribution to its military rivalry with India than for fighting insurgents along its Afghan border.
I suggested earlier this morning that you read only the first few great grafs in a meaningless Post story.
Take the opposite tack with this Times story, which has a humdrum lede on an important topic. Starting at the 14th graf, Schmitt supplies the historical skinny on the F-16 scheme. Because you may rebel at the idea of plowing through the entire story to get there, here are the crucial grafs:
Pakistan agreed to buy about 70 F-16s in the 1980s, and about 40 were delivered before Congress cut off all aid and military sales in 1990, citing Pakistan’s secret development of nuclear weapons.
A new deal was struck after the Sept. 11 attacks to allow Pakistan to buy newer models, in part to reward Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting terrorism. In 2006, Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales, including the $1.4 billion purchase of up to 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in missiles and bombs. The deal included a package for $891 million in upgrades for Pakistan’s older F-16s.
At that time, the United States agreed to use $108 million of its annual security aid to Pakistan to retrofit the older F-16s with equipment to make them comparable to the newer models that will be delivered in the next several years. But the administration promised Congress that the Pakistani government would pay for the rest of the upgrades with its own funds. With Pakistan now facing economic hardships, top Pakistani leaders appealed to senior State Department officials to help defray the costs of the ongoing upgrades.
The debate over the F-16 financing comes at a time when Congress has grown increasingly frustrated with the administration’s Pakistan policy, arguing it has been weighted too heavily on security assistance. The United States has given more than $10 billion in military aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Pervez Musharraf agreed to become an ally in the campaign against terrorism. Of that amount, $5.5 billion was specifically intended to reimburse the counterinsurgency efforts by the Pakistani Army, but Congressional auditors have said that Pakistan did not spend much of that money on counterinsurgency.