UPDATE – US suspends military training program for Pakistan

UPDATES WITH US STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – The United States has started cutting scores of Pakistani military officers from the education and training program, Pakistani media reported on Saturday.

The U.S. military institutions are “struggling” to fill the 66 slots, which they had kept aside for Pakistani officers, for next academic year, the daily Dawn quoted anonymous sources as saying.

The move comes a few days after Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement to allow Pakistani military officers to receive training in Russian military institutions.

“The fund for training Pakistani officers came from the US government’s International Military Education and Training Programme (IMET) but no funds were made available for Pakistan for the next academic year,” the daily reported.

Pakistani officers have been receiving military training and education in the U.S. since early 1960s, which were suspended in the 1990s. However, the U.S. government restored the program after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. State Department also confirmed the suspension of Pakistan’s participation in the training programs.

“So far, Pakistan’s participation in 97 training programs total valued at $3.29M has been cancelled, to include 66 IMET courses worth $2.41M, 25 CTFP (Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program) courses worth $843K, and 6 Regional Center courses worth $37K,” the State Department said in a statement.

However, it stressed that the U.S. “continues to provide civilian assistance to Pakistan in line with U.S. national interests.”

The Inter Services Public Relations, Pakistan army’s media-wing, has not yet commented on the reports.

On Thursday, Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, declined to comments on the country’s current relations with U.S.

“I will not be commenting on the U.S. Regarding Russia and Pakistan relations, our defence relations have grown steadily over the years and both countries have established regular military-to-military contacts,” Faisal told reporters.

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan deteriorated after U.S. President Donald Trump assumed office last year, mainly because of a clash of interests in the war-torn Afghanistan.

On Jan. 1, Trump in a tweet accused Pakistan of playing a “double game” and providing sanctuaries to Taliban factions fighting American troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The tweet was followed by an aid cut which escalated tension between the allies in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Pakistan denies the charge saying it has already done “a lot” in war against terrorism, and will continue to do that but only in its own interest.

– ‘Short-sighted decision’

Security and political analysts in Pakistan termed the U.S. move as a “short-sighted decision” and said it would not impact the capacity of Pakistan armed forces.

“It is a short-sighted and an imprudent decision. Such cooperation is more useful for the host nation and I think it will drive Pakistan further into the Chinese and Russian spheres,” Brig. (retired) Mohammad Saad, an Islamabad-based defense analyst, told Anadolu Agency.

Prof. Ijaz Khan Khattak, a Islamabad-based political analyst, said the U.S. is using tactics to bring Pakistan under pressure to help them in the war-torn Afghanistan.

“I think U.S. is not satisfied from Pakistan’s cooperation in Afghanistan and they are using these tactics to put pressure on Pakistan to help them in Afghanistan,” Khattak opined.

– Pakistan-Russia ties

On Tuesday, Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement at their first Joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC) meeting at Pakistan’s military headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Under the agreement, Pakistani troops will receive training at the Russian military training institutes.

“Pakistan and Russia have been successful in developing a strong partnership, which is based on mutual trust, commonality of interests and convergence of views on important global and regional issues,” the spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, said.

“The two countries have been able to construct a positive trajectory in sustaining high-level interactions and exploring new avenues to cement bilateral relations in all spheres including the defense sector,” he added.

*Hakan Copur and Muhammed Bilal Kenasari in Washington contributed to this story.

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