The Pakistan Army’s next generation of leaders are anti-American, devout Muslims who believe in wild conspiracy theories, a senior United States Army colonel told State Department officials in a cable released by WikiLeaks.
Colonel Michael Schleicher reported his impressions to officials at the U.S embassy in Islamabad, after attending a course at Pakistan’s National Defence University (NDU), the country’s equivalent of Sandhurst.
He found many students, mainly colonels and brigadiers, believed the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were a “Jewish conspiracy” and that Britain’s BBC is controlled by the security service MI5.
Junior officers, colonels and lieutenant-colonels, believed Iraq was invaded for its oil and that the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency controls the American media.
His observations highlighted views which are widely held throughout Pakistani society and shared by some senior military figures, including former head of the Inter-Service Intelligence directorate Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, who supports the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Col. Schleicher’s report reinforced the concerns of Anne W. Patterson, Washington’s ambassador to Islamabad, who said she had received “astonishingly naive questions” from Pakistani officers when she addressed the NDU in 2007. More officers should be invited to training courses in the US to challenge “misconceptions” about America, especially among the “lost generation” of officers denied US training after General Musharraf’s 1999 coup. “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,” she warned.
According to Colonel Schleicher some of those misconceptions were perpetuated by instructors on the course. “One guest lecturer – who is a Pakistani one star general – claimed that the US National Security Agency actively trains correspondents for media organisations. Some students share these misconceptions despite having children who attended universities in the US or London,” he said.
“Students in the Junior Course shared many of the biases prevalent in the Muslim world, including a belief the US invaded Iraq for its oil and that 9/11 was a staged ‘Jewish conspiracy,'” he added.
He estimated one third of the elite officers were devout Muslims, while less religions and secular officers felt under pressure to appear more religious than they were.