The United States 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, according to a Reuters report.
The move, which has not been previously reported, is one of the first known impacts from President Donald Trump’s decision early 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 or the internal deliberations, but officials from both countries privately criticised the move, as per the report.
Reuters quoted US officials saying, they were worried that 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.
Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the move “very short-sighted and myopic”.
“This will have lasting negative impacts limiting the bilateral relationship well into the future,” Feldman told Reuters.
The effective suspension of Pakistan from the US government’s International Military Education and Training programme (IMET) were valued at $2.41 million so far and at least two other programmes have also been affected, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters.
It is unclear precisely what level of military cooperation continues outside the IMET programme, beyond the top level contacts between US and Pakistani military leaders.
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 country pay long-term dividends.
Pakistan has also been removed from programmes at the US Naval War College, Naval Staff College and courses including cyber security studies.