US restores military aid to Egypt

Mar 31, 2015

By Lesley Clark

The White House is restoring some of the military aid to Egypt that it had cut off in 2013 following a lethal crackdown on supporters of the country’s deposed president.

The decision comes amid continuing turmoil in Libya and Yemen and the White House says President Barack Obama called Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi to deliver the news. The military crackdown and July 2013 ouster of President Mohammad Morsi posed a vexing problem for the U.S., which has considered aid to Egypt’s military key to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

In a statement, the White House said a review that Obama had ordered in 2013 is complete and that the administration will now provide additional military assistance to the country, including releasing 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits that had been held from delivery.

“The United States has had a decades-long strategic relationship with Egypt,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. “Since the August 2013 Egyptian government crackdown, we have made clear our commitment to simultaneously pursuing our security interests and our support for meaningful Egyptian political reform.”

Obama will continue to ask for $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt. At the same time, Meehan said the U.S. will discontinue Egypt’s use of cash flow financing which she said would give the U.S. “more flexibility to, in coordination with Egypt, tailor our military assistance as conditions and needs on the ground change.”

Egypt’s government has been criticized for its human rights record and Meehan said the aid will not include a so-called “democracy certification” in the legislation.

“We will continue to engage with Egypt frankly and directly on its political trajectory and to raise human rights and political reform issues at the highest levels,” she said.

Meehan said that beginning in fiscal year 2018, the U.S. will channel funds in four categories: counterterrorism, border security, maritime security, and Sinai security – and for weapons systems already in Egypt’s arsenal.

“In this way, we will ensure that U.S. funding is being used to promote shared objectives in the region, including a secure and stable Egypt and the defeat of terrorist organizations,” Meehan said.

She said the changes would better position the U.S. and Egypt to counter the growth of an ISIL-affiliated group in the country that has launched attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians in the Sinai.

Sisi retaliated against the Islamic State with F-16 strikes after the militants beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in neighboring Libya.

The announcement came as Obama talked today with Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi about U.S. military assistance and ongoing turmoil in Libya and Yemen. The White House said Obama told al-Sisi that he’d lift the executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of the equipment and would continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt.

The White House says Obama “reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials. He encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States.”

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, last month pushed the White House to release the weapons systems, particularly the F-16 fighter jets. In a letter to Obama, Granger, chairman of a key funding subcommittee, sharply criticized the administration for failing to provide the arms.

“As Egypt, Jordan and the Kurds retaliate and defend themselves against ISIL’s heinous acts,” Granger wrote, using one of the common acronyms for the Islamic State, “U.S. security assistance is being held or delayed by bureaucratic processes and ill-advised policy decisions by your administration.”

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