Trump administration suspends military training with Pakistan

Vastavam web: The Trump administration has suspended more than a decade-long military training programme of Pakistani personnel at the US institutions, a media report said today, days after Islamabad and Moscow signed an agreement to allow Pakistani troops to receive training at the Russian defence centres.Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement on Tuesady at their first Joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC) meeting in Rawalpindi during which the two sides discussed the present status of the bilateral defence relations and agreed that Pakistani troops will receive training at the Russian military training institutes.The US Congress also passed a bill to slash Pakistan’s defence aid to USD 150 million, significantly below the historic level of more than USD one billion per year.

The US military institutions are struggling to fill the 66 slots they had kept aside for officers from Pakistan for the next academic year, as the Trump administration refused to provide funds for their training, the Dawn newspaper reported, quoting official sources.The fund for the training of 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, it said.The Trump administration had announced early this year that it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan over differences on Afghanistan but indicated that training programmes for military officers will continue.

The cancellation of slots kept aside for Pakistani officers, however, shows that the suspension now also applies to training programmes, the report said.Pakistani officers have been receiving military training and education in the US since early 1960s, which were suspended in the 1990s but restored after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.Previously, it was not just Pakistan that valued the training and education of its officers received in the US.”This is an unfortunate and ultimately counterproductive decision. There are certainly ways to send a strong message to Pakistan, but this isn’t the way to do it,” Michael Kugelman, an expert of Pakistan affairs at the Washington think tank ‘the Wilson Center’, was quoted as saying in the report.

“This move could squander what little goodwill and trust remains in the military-to-military relationship, and it reduces the likelihood that Pakistan will act in the ways that Washington would like it to act,” Kugelman said.He said there was a long history of educational and training cooperation between the US and Pakistani militaries, and this cooperation had withstood the pressures and tensions of the relationship.Pakistan’s defence ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.

Pakistan has shown eagerness to build military-to-military level ties with Russia.Earlier this year, the then foreign minister Khawaja Asif visited Moscow during which the two sides agreed to set up a commission to boost military cooperation.