February 23, 2016 / 4:45 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. Senate committee chairman questions Pakistan F-16 deal

A Pakistani F-16 fighter performs during a ceremony marking Pakistan Defence Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, September 6, 2015. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sharply questioned U.S. plans to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, questioning Pakistani actions he described as threatening U.S. troops as they try to stabilize Afghanistan.

“They continue to support the Taliban, the Haqqani network and give safe haven to al Qaeda,” Republican Senator Bob Corker said to Secretary of State John Kerry, who was testifying to the committee about the State Department’s annual budget request.

The U.S. government said on Feb. 12 it had approved the sale to Pakistan of up to eight F-16 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp, radar and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale and Corker has made clear he has doubts about it.

Kerry responded that the issue is complicated and said Pakistan also has been an ally.

“I understand your reservations about it but their military has been deeply engaged in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott

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