The Pentagon declared Tuesday it was stopping operational training of all Saudi Arabian troops in the U.S. until further notice after a Saudi Air Force lieutenant shot three people last week at a base in Florida.
The decision will have far-reaching effects on visiting Saudi delegates, including grounding over 300 Saudi Arabian army aviation students as a part of a “safety stand-down,” first reported earlier on Tuesday.
The Pentagon later confirmed the report about aviation students and added the step would further affect infantry officials and all other Saudi training, other than classroom training. Such coursework, which includes English-language lessons, will continue.
A senior U.S. defense delegate, briefing Pentagon reporters on the decision, stated the step was intended to allow broader scrutiny of security procedures that would eventually apply to all 5,000 international military students in the U.S.
Nonetheless, safety standdown solely applied to the 850 visiting students from Saudi Arabia. The defense delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the shooting “suggested that there could be an improvement with that (nation’s) population.”
The FBI had stated U.S. investigators consider Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani alone attacked a U.S. Navy base in Pensacola, Florida Friday before a deputy sheriff brutally killed him.
The shootings have again raised questions in regards to the U.S. army ties with Saudi Arabia, which is facing increased scrutiny in Congress over the war in Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.