Since 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised security in exchange for oil, the United States has maintained an intensive partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As part of geostrategic agendas, the partnership includes, inter alia, the training of Saudi Arabian military by the US Army. However, after Saudi trainees have killed American soldiers in two separate American locations, the program has sparked concerns and is now being partially suspended.
After the recent fatalities at US military bases, the Defense Department has taken immediate measures that aim to intensively examine the reasons that led to two separate terrorist attacks on US soil. More than 5200 foreign militaries are currently stationed across the United States; approximately 900 of them are Saudi military trainees.
Both nations have been close allies since 1945, particularly with regard to the respective relationships with Iran and the geostrategic balance in the Middle East. Only two years ago, this partnership was emphasized again when the Kingdom agreed to an arms deal worth billions of dollars.
In the current incident, a 21-year-old opened fire in a U.S. Army classroom, killing three American soldiers. Another eight people were injured in the attack before the police killed the perpetrator named Mohammed al-Shamrani. As it subsequently became known, the killer had published a manifesto on Twitter critical of the United States prior to the attack, in which he described the United States as the “nation of evil”.
The FBI is investigating the attack as an act of terrorism; however, the result of the investigation are still pending. Moreover, the FBI is investigating whether al-Shamrani was acting alone or as part of a network that was at higher risk. This worry does not seem unfounded, because the attack was the second within a few days. Shortly before the Florida terror, another Saudi soldier shot two US soldiers at Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien stated that there was “no doubt” that the shooting was an act of terrorism.
In response, members of Congress have already demanded a temporary end to the Saudi Arabian soldier training program in the United States. Senator Lindsey Graham said that the program needed to be suspended until more precise details of what exactly had happened were available.
The Defense Department has reacted, not in the draconian way Graham sought. After Secretary of Defense Esper had ordered a review of the current situation, the Defense Department has suspended all training flights at military bases across the country as well as shooting range training and any other training outside of classroom studies for the Saudi students as a result.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom, dependant on complete reinstatement of the program, has pledged to take “whatever measures are necessary” to ensure that no other Saudi terrorist attack will occur on US soil, as another incident would likely result in the program’s total shutdown.