July 25, 2024

Achieving Academic Outcomes

Enhancing Student Success

Record Numbers of Pakistani Women Join US Military Training Programs

6 min read

Over the past two years, Pakistan has led the region in sending women officers to the United States for specialized military training

[Islamabad] Pakistan has seen a 150% surge in the number of female officers receiving military training in the United States over the past decade, according to a report from the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

“Since 2013, there has been a notable increase in the participation of Pakistani female military personnel in the International Military Education and Training Program (IMET),” the report stated.

“The program offers an opportunity for the participants to understand US military culture better,” Noureen Akhtar, a doctoral student in international relations at the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, told The Media Line. In addition, she said, the participation of Pakistani women in the program “ensures that female officers [in Pakistan] have equal career opportunities to their male colleagues.”

Sponsored by the State Department, this program aims to foster military relationships between partner nations by funding international military students to attend American military training and education courses.

The report further stated, “From 2020 to 2023, 55 women attended IMET courses, more than doubling the 22 participants from 2013 to 2019. Moreover, Pakistan has been the leading country in the region for the past two years in sending female military officers for courses in the United States.”

According to the report, “Pakistani women officers have been actively involved in specialized training programs that cover a wide range of subjects, such as anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, military justice, information technology, cyber strategies, public affairs, gender-based violence, and medical-related topics.”

In Pakistan, these individuals have proven to be the first drops of rain, jumping head-first into military training and education courses to advance their professional development while laying the groundwork for more women to follow

“In Pakistan, these individuals have proven to be the first drops of rain, jumping head-first into military training and education courses to advance their professional development while laying the groundwork for more women to follow,” the report said.

Female officers receiving training in the US come from various branches of Pakistan’s Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The Pakistan Army started inducting women as commissioned officers in 1948, followed by the Pakistan Air Force in 1993 and the Pakistan Navy in 1996. Despite facing cultural and societal barriers, Pakistani women have made significant strides in the military, breaking gender stereotypes and proving their capabilities in various operational and leadership roles.

The female soldiers undergo the same rigorous selection process as their male counterparts when joining the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In training academies, they face the same tough training stages as male cadets.

The Army Training Academy is located in Kakul, a city in the Abbottabad district, while the Air Force Training Academy is in Risalpur, a city in the Khyber Pakhtun Khwa district, and the Navy Training Academy is in Karachi.

In 2003, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched a new combat program, initiating the training of women as fighter pilots. By 2006, the first batch of women fighter pilots had joined the combat services of the PAF.

There are currently 34 women pilots in the PAF, including Squadron Leader Ayesha Farooq, who holds the distinction of being Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot. She currently serves as the adjutant of a flying wing within the PAF fighter jet fleet.

Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s pioneering female fighter pilot, gazes skyward before sealing the cockpit of her fighter jet. (Courtesy Pakistan Air Force)

The Pakistan Navy restricts women from serving in combat roles but allows them to play crucial roles in supporting naval operations, maintaining information technology systems, providing engineering services, giving medical care, educating personnel, managing logistics, and handling public relations.

“Most officers in the IMET program are still male,” Feroz Hassan Khan, a leading South Asian expert and retired brigadier general in the Pakistan Army, who currently teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, told The Media Line. However, the current Democratic Party-led administration is determined to showcase to the American public, especially during an election year, its dedication to gender equality, particularly within the military, to garner public and congressional support for budget approvals. Khan said, “The State Department needs to demonstrate that IMET funds, which are American taxpayers’ money, are being used appropriately for a major non-NATO ally and in line with modern warfare needs.”

“The Democratic government wants to show its support for these [women’s and LGBT] rights.” He notes, however, that “the Pakistani impression of women’s rights and gender issues is not very positive, and Pakistan has few sympathizers in Congress.”

The program aligns with the Biden Administration’s national security strategy, Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based national security and South Asian expert, told The Media Line.

“There are several US interests in training Pakistani female officers. The Biden Administration emphasizes gender equity in the military and international cooperation as part of its national security strategy and official policy.”

Increasing the number of women in Pakistan’s military is seen as a way to promote reform and liberalization, fostering greater openness and inclusivity within the country’s institutions

It is also a way for the US to influence Pakistani society. “Increasing the number of women in Pakistan’s military is seen as a way to promote reform and liberalization, fostering greater openness and inclusivity within the country’s institutions,” Tsukerman said.

Pakistan is progressively integrating women into its armed forces beyond traditional roles like doctors and nurses, Khan notes. Although women are not yet in combat roles, modern training is available for women in expanded roles such as administration, communications, artificial intelligence, drone operation, and space technologies, “where their contributions are increasingly valued,” he says.

Women officers are participating in the IMET program “as part of the efforts of Pakistan Armed Forces to develop the professional capacity of women in the Pakistani military for different specialized roles spanning from administration, staff assignments to field duties,” says Akhtar, who also works as a policy/research consultant at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

“The sudden surge in participation of female officers during the last three years in the IMET program suggests the success of earlier smaller batches that attended IMET training,” she notes.

Farhat Asif, a Lahore-based doctoral student and expert in strategic communications, geopolitical research, and analysis, told The Media Line she agrees that “having more women officers from Pakistan in this program helps to empower female officers within Pakistan’s military ranks,” enhancing their capabilities through specialized training in anti-terrorism, cyber strategies, and military justice. “This will cover security challenges at both national and regional levels,” she added.

The increased participation Pakistani women officers in the IMET program “signifies a positive trend toward greater gender inclusion and enhanced military capabilities,” Asif said.

The nature of warfare and statecraft has evolved, says Khan, necessitating comprehensive military training that spans the spectrum of modern warfare. He explains that today’s warfare “extends beyond traditional battlefields to include cross-domain operations involving emerging technologies, AI, and space. It targets the hearts and minds of people, as seen in the Russia-Ukraine, Middle East, and Armenia-Azerbaijan wars.” Hence, men and women must receive equal training opportunities to effectively participate in these multifaceted operations.

The IMET program, Tsukerman says, has been instrumental in modernizing the Pakistani military, making it more adept at handling threats, while aligning it with US perspectives. This modernization could lead to “reduced corruption, fewer radical influences, greater professionalism, and the empowerment of women by providing young girls with educated, patriotic role models,” she says.

The IMET program also plays a vital role in strengthening US-Pakistan military relations. Khan asserts that there is no hidden agenda behind the training of women military officers; instead, it reflects the changing geopolitics and the need for allies with comprehensive military capabilities.

This collaboration is essential for developing mutual understanding, trust, and shared strategies, which can enhance overall security and stability

Asif says another aim of the collaboration is to foster “close cooperation and build military-to-military ties not just within the military operational environment but also during peacetime. This collaboration is essential for developing mutual understanding, trust, and shared strategies, which can enhance overall security and stability.”

From the US perspective, the driving force behind the IMET program is “establishing a rapport between the US military and Pakistan’s military to build alliances for the future and enhancing interoperability and capabilities for joint operations,” says Akhtar. “Moreover, it provides an opportunity for participants to better understand US military culture, further solidifying the alliance between the two nations,” she says.

link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.