President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programmes that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade, US officials say.
The move is one of the first known impacts from Trump’s decision this year to suspend US security assistance to Pakistan to compel it to crack down on Islamic militants.
The Pentagon and the Pakistani military did not comment directly on the decision.
US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they were worried the decision could undermine a key trust-building measure. Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to further look to China or Russia for leadership training.
The effective suspension of Pakistan from the US government’s International Military Education and Training programme will close off places in the US that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year, a State Department spokesperson who requested anonymity said.
Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the move “very short-sighted and myopic”.
The US military has traditionally sought to shield such educational programmes from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the US pay long-term dividends.
For example, the US Army’s War College in Pennsylvania, which would normally have two Pakistani military officers a year, boasts graduates including Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, the director-general of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
In his first tweet of 2018, Trump slammed Pakistan, saying the country had rewarded past US aid with “nothing but lies and deceit”. Washington announced plans in January to suspend about $2 billion (R28bn) in security assistance to Pakistan. But weeks later, Pakistan’s foreign secretary was quoted by local media as saying that Islamabad had been told the US would continue funding IMET programmes.
Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the US have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan. But tensions have grown over US complaints that the Afghan Taliban militants and the Haqqani network that target US troops in Afghanistan are allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil.
Russia and Pakistan signed an agreement earlier this week that would allow for Pakistani military officers to train at Russian institutes. - Reuters