The Pentagon later confirmed the Reuters report about aviation students and added the move would also affect infantry personnel and all other Saudi training, other than classroom training. Such coursework, which includes English-language classes, will continue. Still, the safety standdown only applied to the some 850 visiting students from Saudi Arabia.
CNBC A senior U.S. defense official, briefing Pentagon reporters on the decision, said the move was intended to allow for a broader review of security procedures that would eventually apply to all of some 5,000 international military students in the United States.
The defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the shooting “suggested that there could be a particular improvement with that (nation’s) population.” “I don’t have any evidence to suggest that there is a larger ring or larger conspiracy,” the official said, when asked what was driving the safety-standdown. (I guess he forgot that 15 out of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals?)
The FBI has said U.S. investigators believe Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, acted alone when he attacked a U.S. Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, before he was fatally shot by a deputy sheriff.
The shootings have again raised questions about the U.S. military relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has come under heightened scrutiny in Congress over the war in Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Still, U.S. military leaders have sought to portray this as a localized issue which would not affect the overall U.S.-Saudi relationship.
Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Andriana Genualdi said the safety standdown and operational pause began on Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students. She said the grounding included three different military facilities: Naval Air Station Pensacola, Naval Air Station Whiting Field and Naval Air Station Mayport, all in Florida.