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US military training program: Are Pakistani officers brainwashed?

A senior official in Islamabad says that “our officers shall take part in the courses offered by the US state department, and there is nothing new for us”.

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Washington resumed a military training program with Pakistan in 2019. The announcement of resumption of the International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) came just hours after then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss the killing of senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

“To strengthen mil2mil [military to military] cooperation on shared priorities & advance US national security, @POTUS [President of The United States] authorized the resumption of International Military Education and Training #IMET for Pakistan. The overall security assistance suspension for Pakistan remains in effect, ” the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State said on Twitter.

The IMET program was suspended in 2018, after Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement to allow Pakistani military officers to receive training in Russian military institutions.

The decision to resume Islamabad’s participation in the IMET – for more than a decade a pillar of US-Pakistani military ties – underscores warming relations that have followed meetings this year between President Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Washington also has credited Islamabad with helping to facilitate negotiations on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The talks recently resumed between the United States and the Taliban.

The State Department administers IMET. It was a small facet of US security aid programmes for Pakistan worth some $2 billion that remain suspended on orders that Trump abruptly issued in January 2018 to compel the nuclear-armed South Asian nation to crackdown on militants.
Pakistan’s suspension from the programme in August 2018 prompted the cancellation of 66 slots set aside that year for Pakistani military officers in one of the first known impacts of Trump’s decision to halt security assistance.

The US military traditionally has sought to shield such educational programmes from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the United States pay long-term dividends.

Why is this training important?

A senior official in Islamabad told BBC that “our officers shall take part in the courses offered by the US state department, and there is nothing new for us”.

BBC quoted Major General (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani who appears to be enthusiastic about the resumption of military training in the US. “IMET is great opportunity to understand the US society, military advancement and their culture,” he said.

“It is just military training and there is no ideological element involved in it. The perceptions prevailing in our society about the brainwashing of officers are baseless and have no ground to stand on,” he clarified.

“There is other officers from Israel, India, and Europe where they learn military sciences. It creates an international environment where you can learn how the US system functions,” he added.

Read More: US to send $266.5 mn in aid to Afghanistan for Covid response

General Durrani also believes that those who do not learn from other cultures and societies become stagnant. “We must learn from others,” he emphasized.

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