ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Officers received training biased against the United States at a prestigious Pakistan army institution, according to Wikileaks, underscoring concern that anti-Americanism in the country’s powerful military is growing amid strains with Washington.
A U.S. diplomatic cable said the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, found officers at the National Defense University (NDU) were “naive and biased” against the United States, a key ally which gives Pakistan billions of dollars of aid to help fight Islamist militants.
Fears the military could be harboring militant sympathizers have grown since U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden this month in a Pakistani garrison town, where the al Qaeda leader had probably lived for several years.
Pakistan’s military also controls the country’s nuclear arms, and a series of attacks against military installations has heightened fears about the safety of those weapons.
“The elite of this crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training with no chance to hear alternative views of the U.S.,” the Wikileaks cable, which was published in the Dawn newspaper, quoted Patterson as saying.
“Given the bias of the instructors, we also believe it would be beneficial to initiate an exchange program for instructors.”
Some of the officers believed the CIA was in charge of the U.S. media, the report said.
Anti-Americanism runs high among many of Pakistan’s mainly Muslim people but it has deepened after bin Laden’s killing in a secret U.S. raid which many Pakistanis see as breach of sovereignty.
Patterson said the United States must target a “lost generation” of military officers who missed training programs in the United States after Washington imposed sanctions against Pakistan in the 1990s for its nuclear program.
The cables also documented the account of a U.S. army officer, Colonel Michael Schleicher, who attended a course at NDU and corroborated the views expressed by Patterson.
“The senior level instructors had misperception about U.S. policies and culture and infused the lectures with these suspicions, while the students share these misconceptions with their superiors despite having children who attended universities in the U.S. or London,” the cables quoted Schleicher as saying.
Hamayoun Khan, a teacher at NDU, however denied that anti-Americanism was being taught at the university.
“I haven’t seen bias which she has mentioned here,” he said.
Dawn said dozens of cables from U.S. embassies around the world also showed that the United States continued to intensely monitor Pakistan’s nuclear and missiles programs.
In 2008, the U.S. deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Nancy McEldowney, detailed her discussions with Turkish authorities about the U.S. desire to see action taken against suspicious shipments to Pakistan.
U.S. officials, according to the cable, “urged the GOT (government of Turkey) to contact the governments of Japan and Panama to request the shipment be diverted to another port and returned.”
Pakistan’s nuclear program came under increasing international scrutiny after the 2004 confessions of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atom bomb, about his involvement in sales of nuclear secrets to Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
The government pardoned Khan but put him under house arrest. A court in 2009 ordered his release.
A militant raid on a navy base in the southern city of Karachi this week has raised fresh anxiety about the ability of Pakistani security forces to protect installations and the country’s nuclear arsenal.
A Taliban spokesman said militants had “so far” no plans to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
“We will protect these weapons from dangers from foreigners,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Many Pakistanis believe the United States and India would like to confiscate their nuclear weapons.
(Additional reporting by Haji Mujtabad; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Robert Birsel)