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US military assistance for foreign forces: a wise investment?

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"When you have personal relationships with very senior officers, at times of crisis it gives you an ability to communicate easily," says Joseph Englehardt, a retired US Army colonel who served as US defense attaché in Cairo and Tehran in the 1970s.

Gen. James Mattis, head of the command responsible for the Pentagon's operations in the Middle East, emphasized this point in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, noting that exchange programs, such as those at Fort Leavenworth, provide the US military common cultural touchstones--with Egyptian military officers who have completed these programs, for example--that are strategically important to the Pentagon. He attributed the ethical behavior of the Egyptian military to the time they spent in US military war colleges. He added in his testimony that "it is worth looking into" expanding such programs.

Still, there's no guarantee that billions in US military aid will count with a foreign government when push comes to shove.

Take, for example, the Iranian military, which received Pentagon training and weapons in the years leading up to the 1979 revolution.

"The hope was that the Iranian military was going to be part of our defenses against the Soviet Union," says Mr. Englehardt.

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