The Pentagon suspended operational training for hundreds of Saudi military officials in the United States on Tuesday in response to a member of the Saudi military massacring Americans at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, last week.
The news came after a 21-year-old Saudi national, who was a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force, opened fire at the base last week killing three American sailors and wounding eight others, including two police officers.
Fox News reported that the suspension targets 852 Saudi nationals who are in the training in the United States and who “will be immediately confined to classroom training, while all operational training in the air, land, and sea ‘will pause.'”
The security review will reportedly target more than 5,000 foreign nationals who are in the United States training with the U.S. military.
David L. Norquist, the deputy secretary of defense, said in a statement on Tuesday evening, “The Department of Defense recognizes the importance of long-standing military education and training with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The Department has trained more than 28,000 Saudi students over the life of our security cooperation relationship without serious incident. KSA is an essential partner, and we will continue to partner with the Kingdom to reinforce defense cooperation, increase military investment, and advance America’s interests.”
“As we reaffirm our commitment to these critical military partnerships, so must we assess the efficacy of our security procedures in light of the tragic loss of life on December 6, 2019, at Naval Air Station Pensacola,” Norquist continued. “In doing so, we will make every effort to ensure the safety of all personnel and their families on U.S. military installations. Therefore I direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) 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. These efforts will seek to more closely align IMS vetting procedures with those we apply to U.S. personnel. With respect to specific training programs and personnel under their cognizance, the Secretaries of the Military Departments may take additional security measures as they see fit.”
Following the shooting, the FBI took ten Saudi nationals into custody for questioning, including individuals who were video taping and watching the attacker carry out the attack and individuals who attended a dinner party the night before where the attacker played videos of mass shootings.
President Donald Trump responded to the attack, tweeting: “King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida. The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”
This article has been updated to include additional information.