The Trump administration will block dozens of Pakistani military officers from an exclusive U.S.-run leadership training program, according to a report Friday that tied the development to the White House’s halt earlier this year of American security-related assistance to Islamabad.
The effective suspension of Pakistan from the U.S. government’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will close off some 66 spots in the program that would have otherwise gone to Pakistani officers for 2018, according to the report by Reuters.
While the Pentagon and the Pakistani military have not commented publicly, the news agency claimed officials from both criticized the decision in private, with U.S. officials saying it could undermine a key trust-building measure between Washington and Islamabad, while Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to look increasingly toward China or Russia for leadership training.
President Trump suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January following years of on-again, off-again tension that has hampered relations between the two since the 2011 U.S. Special Forces raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad — the same town where Pakistan’s military academy is located.
The Trump administration said it halted the aid because of dissatisfaction in Washington with what some U.S. officials claim has been the Pakistani government’s failure to crack down on extremists and Islamic militants operating in the nation, which borders Afghanistan.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in January that the halt in aid would remain in place until Islamabad “takes decisive action” against the Taliban and other jihadist groups.
Pakistan, which claims its military has already engaged in a costly internal crackdown on terrorists over the past three years, has bristled for months over the development.
The United States gave more than $30 billion in aid to Islamabad since 2001, with much of the money tied to military training and Pakistani purchases of U.S.-made weaponry.