'US to resume military training programme for Pakistan'

The Trump administration has approved the resumption of Pakistan's participation in a coveted US military training and educational program- more than a year after it was suspended
Last Updated : 20 December 2019, 08:14 IST
Last Updated : 20 December 2019, 08:14 IST

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The Trump administration has approved the resumption of Pakistan's participation in a coveted US military training and educational program- more than a year after it was suspended, the State Department said on Thursday.

The decision to resume Islamabad's participation in the International Military Education and Training Program, or IMET- a pillar of US- Pakistan military ties for more than a decade, underscores warming relations which followed meetings between US President Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, this year.

Washington has also credited Islamabad with contributing in facilitating negotiations on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The talks recently gained momentum between the United States and the Taliban- who US officials believe receive sanctuary and other aid from Pakistan's military-led intelligence agency. However, Pakistan always denied the charge.

The State Department administers IMET, which was a small facet of US security aid programs for Pakistan. Worth some $2 billion, it remained suspended on orders of Trump which were abruptly issued in January 2018 to compel the nuclear-armed South Asian nation to crack down on Islamist militants. Trump's decision, announced in a tweet, blindsided the US officials.

After an attack earlier this year by a Pakistan-based extremist group that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary troops, US officials called on Islamabad to take "sustained and irreversible action" against the militants operating from its territory.

A State Department spokeswoman said in an email that Trump's 2018 decision to suspend security assistance authorized "narrow exceptions for programs that support vital US national security interests." The decision to restore Pakistani participation in IMET was "one such exception," she said.

The program "provides an opportunity to increase bilateral cooperation between our countries on shared priorities," she added. "We want to continue to build on this foundation through concrete actions that advance regional security and stability."

Another US official said on condition of anonymity that Pakistan was in the process of selecting officers to send to the United States.

The restart of the program, however, is subject to approval by Congress. Republican and Democratic aides for the Senate and House of Representatives committees with jurisdiction over the process did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

IMET provides spaces to foreign military officers at US military educational institutions like- the US Army War College and the US Naval War College.

Pakistan's suspension from the program 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 U.S. military traditionally has sought to shield such educational programs from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the United States pay long-term dividends.

Published 20 December 2019, 06:52 IST

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