Pentagon suspends training of Saudi military officials in US days after Pensacola shootings
The mass shooting by a 21-year-old Saudi military officer at the Navy base that killed three American sailors has raised several questions over Washington's relations with Riyadh
Days after the deadly shooting at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, that killed three American sailors, the Pentagon on Tuesday, December 10, suspended training of Saudi military officers in America.
Pentagon had launched a wide-ranging review on Tuesday evening in the wake of the tragic shooting that was carried out by Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force who was a visiting student at the base’s Naval Aviation Schools Command.
The move will see stopping of all operational training of Saudi nationals who are undergoing programs at American military facilities. The review will also restrict their training to classrooms only, a top official of the Pentagon told the media on Tuesday.
Over 300 Saudi military aviation students will be grounded as a result of the decision.
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, who signed the memo, said the review of the vetting must be completed in 10 days. He added the flight restrictions will continue throughout the review and until lifted by senior officials.
Uncomfortable questions for US-Saudi relations
The shootings of December 6 raised questions over the US’ military relationship with Saudi Arabia—one of its most trusted allies. Washington’s relationship with Riyadh has come under the scanner over the war in Yemen and Saudi’s killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
While it is still being investigated whether a detailed planning had gone into the Pensacola shootings, American military leaders have underplayed the tragedy as a localized one which would not affect the US' relations with Saudi Arabia.
Alshamrani, who was neutralized after the mayhem, accused the US of being anti-Muslim on Twitter before the attack which was called an “act of terrorism”.
American officials said the US will continue with its military alliance with Saudi Arabia, a key ally in dealing with Iran. They said the US military has trained over 28,000 Saudi students since the two countries’ security cooperation had started without any serious incident happening till the Pensacola shooting, the Washington Times reported.