Still don’t trust ’em!
The Pentagon has paused its training in the U.S. with Saudi nationals until officials conduct a thorough review. The directive follows a deadly shooting that killed three sailors and injured eight other people at NAS Pensacola, Florida, according to a senior defense official.
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist issued a memo this week following the incident saying leaders would review security and screening procedures for foreign students attending training in the U.S., as well as ongoing bilateral training programs. But Saudi students in particular have been ordered to take a temporary operational pause in training in what the Pentagon says is a “safety and security stand down” during the review, the senior defense officials said in a phone call with reporters Tuesday.
“This will apply to all Saudi students in the United States. So they will all continue to have classroom training, but operational training will pause during the course of this review.”David Norquist
Deputy Defense Secretary
There are roughly 850 Saudi students in the U.S. at this time for various training programs, the official said. The Navy first issued its own temporary grounding for Saudi aviation students training at three Florida bases earlier on Tuesday.
The latest development comes as thousands of U.S. troops are in Saudi to deter malign behavior from Iran in the Middle East.
Norquist said he has directed the undersecretary of intelligence “to take immediate steps to strengthen personnel vetting for International Military Students (IMS) and to complete a review within 10 days of policies and procedures for screening foreign students and granting access to our bases,” according to the memo.
“These efforts will seek to more closely align IMS vetting procedures with those we apply to US personnel,” the memo states
The senior defense official said the U.S. military has trained more than 28,000 Saudi students over the life of our security cooperation relationship “without serious incident.” But “we are going to take some short term looks at our programs to see how we can address any shortcomings,” the official added.
At various events over the weekend, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that he had ordered a review of vetting and security following the shooting.
The FBI identified the suspect as 21-year-old Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who allegedly used a handgun in his shooting rampage