Exclusive: As Trump cracks down on Pakistan, U.S. cuts navy coaching packages

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly began slicing scores of Pakistani officers from coveted coaching and academic packages which have been a trademark of bilateral navy relations for greater than a decade, U.S. officers say.

A State Department contractor alter a Pakistan nationwide flag earlier than a gathering between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the sidelines of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on the State Department in Washington February 19, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The transfer, which has not been beforehand reported, is likely one of the first recognized impacts from Trump’s determination this yr to droop U.S. safety help to Pakistan to compel it to crack down on Islamic militants.

The Pentagon and the Pakistani navy didn’t remark instantly on the choice or the inner deliberations, however officers from each nations privately criticized the transfer.

U.S. officers, talking to Reuters on the situation of anonymity, stated they have been frightened the choice might undermine a key trust-building measure. Pakistani officers warned it might push their navy to additional look to China or Russia for management coaching.

The efficient suspension of Pakistan from the U.S. authorities’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will shut off locations that had been put aside for 66 Pakistani officers this yr, a State Department spokesperson instructed Reuters.

The locations will both be unfilled or given to officers from different nations.

Dan Feldman, a former U.S. particular consultant for Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as the transfer “very short-sighted and myopic”.

“This could have lasting destructive impacts limiting the bilateral relationship nicely into the long run,” Feldman instructed Reuters.

The State Department spokesperson, talking on the situation of anonymity, stated the IMET cancellations have been valued at $2.41 million up to now. At least two different packages have additionally been affected, the spokesperson stated.

It is unclear exactly what degree of navy cooperation nonetheless continues exterior the IMET program, past the highest degree contacts between U.S. and Pakistani navy leaders.

The U.S. navy has historically sought to protect such academic packages from political tensions, arguing that the ties constructed by bringing overseas navy officers to the United States pay long-term dividends.

For instance, the U.S. Army’s War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which might usually have two Pakistani navy officers per yr, boasts graduates together with Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, the present director-general of Pakistan’s highly effective spy company, the Inter-Services Intelligence company (ISI).

The War College, the U.S. Army’s premier college for overseas officers, says it has hosted 37 contributors from Pakistan over the previous a number of many years. It could have no Pakistani college students within the upcoming tutorial yr, a spokeswoman stated.

Pakistan has additionally been faraway from packages on the U.S. Naval War College, Naval Staff College and programs together with cyber safety research.

“LIES AND DECEIT”

In his first tweet of 2018, Trump slammed Pakistan, saying the nation has rewarded previous U.S. support with “nothing however lies & deceit.” Washington introduced plans in January to droop as much as roughly $2 billion in U.S. safety help to Pakistan.

But weeks later, Pakistan’s overseas secretary was quoted by native media saying that Islamabad had been instructed the United States would proceed funding IMET packages.

Officially allies in preventing terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a sophisticated relationship, certain by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to provide its troops in Afghanistan however suffering from accusations Islamabad is enjoying a double recreation.

Tensions have grown over U.S. complaints that the Afghan Taliban militants and the Haqqani community that concentrate on American troops in Afghanistan are allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil.

Current and former U.S. officers stated Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued in opposition to excluding Pakistani officers from IMET programs.

“I’m shocked… We labored so onerous for this to be the one factor that bought saved,” stated a former U.S. protection official, who was concerned within the conversations.

The Pentagon declined to touch upon inner authorities discussions, however Dana White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, stated Mattis lengthy believed within the worth of the IMET program as a approach to construct relations between overseas militaries.

Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, instructed Reuters {that a} U.S. determination to chop off such exchanges could be counter-productive and push Pakistan’s navy in the direction of different nations.

“It is a type of foolish, punitive measures that they’ve deployed,” stated Hussain, who sat subsequent to a Chinese and Pakistani flag in his workplace.

Russia and Pakistan signed an settlement earlier this week that may permit for Pakistani navy officers to coach at Russian institutes.

Pakistan’s navy has dominated the nation for about half of its historical past and historically seen the nation’s overseas coverage in its area.

IMET programs have been capable of stand up to poor relations between the 2 nations up to now, even after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid within the Pakistani city of Abbotabad in 2011.

A NATO helicopter raid killed 28 Pakistani troops later that yr in a pleasant fireplace incident on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Feldman stated that after the raid, when relations have been at a low level, the United States restricted giant safety help objects, however made lively efforts to proceed the IMET program.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE

In the 1990’s former U.S. President George H.W. Bush refused to certify that Pakistan didn’t have nuclear weapons, triggering the so-called “Pressler Amendment” that required slicing off all navy help. That included IMET programs.

“The unintended consequence was we didn’t know a decade of the Pakistani navy management as nicely, and due to this fact couldn’t have interaction as successfully with them once we wanted to,” Feldman stated.

Mattis, in personal discussions inside the authorities, had warned that excluding Pakistani officers from IMET programs might contribute to the same state of affairs in years to come back, the previous U.S. protection official stated.

Pakistan had been the biggest recipient of IMET between 2003 and 2017, based on the Security Assistance Monitor which tracks U.S. help.

“You can advocate for slicing off all the things else and this was the one factor we weren’t supposed to the touch,” the previous official stated.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Original article http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/Reuters/worldNews/~3/kKZuHmXfIWk/exclusive-as-trump-cracks-down-on-pakistan-u-s-cuts-military-training-programs-idUSKBN1KV166

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