ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Instructors at a prestigious Pakistani defense institution are giving anti-American lessons to senior officers attending courses, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable, a revelation that suggests a deep bias against Washington at the highest levels of the military.
The dispatch, dated 2008, shows the challenges for the United States as it tries to overcome deep suspicions in a country that is a vital, if difficult, partner in the fight against al Qaeda and has received more than $10 billion in American aid since 2001.
The unilateral American raid on Osama bin Laden on May 2 has exposed a fresh seam of hostility toward America in the army. That bin Laden was caught in an army town not from a military academy has added to suspicions in Washington that Pakistan cannot be trusted. Some legislators now say America should cut aid despite the nuclear-armed country’s geostrategic importance.
The cable is one of the quarter-million confidential American diplomatic dispatches first obtained by WikiLeaks. The Associated Press since has received them independently.
The dispatch is based on the experiences of an American officer who attended a course at the National Defense University in 2008. The officer is quoted as saying that “lecturers often ‘teach’ their students information that is heavily biased against the United States.”
He said one instructor, a brigadier general, claimed that the U.S. National Security Agency trains American journalists. Students — typically senior officers in their 50s — believed in anti-American conspiracy theories such as Jewish involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, despite having children studying in the United States, the officer said.
“In contrast to criticism of the U.S., students and instructors were adamant in their approval of all things Chinese,” the cable said.
University representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Conspiracy theories and virulent anti-American and anti-Jewish statements commonly are aired in Pakistan among all classes of the society. American has not been seen as a reliable long-term partner for years, and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan post-2001 have only increased suspicions.
The cable said that about one-third of the students were devoutly Muslim, with fewer than a third overtly secular. That observations gels with accounts that the army has transformed from a mostly secular institution into a more Islamic one in the past 20 years.
“The elite of this crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training with no chance to hear alternative views of the U.S.,” then-U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson wrote, adding it was important to increase opportunities for Pakistani officers and soldiers to study in the United States.
She referred to soldiers who missed out on training opportunities when Washington slapped sanctions on Pakistan in the 1990s after it produced nuclear weapons, saying officers from the “lost generation,” should be the focus. Currently, more than 100 Pakistani officers receive education and training in the United States each year, according to the U.S. State Department.