Granger pushes Obama to send F-16s to Egypt
By Maria Recio - Star-Telegram Washington Bureau
One of North Texas’ most powerful members of Congress is taking on the Obama administration over delays in providing military assistance to nations on the front lines of combat against the Islamic State.
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, is pushing the White House to release weapons systems, especially F-16 fighter jets, to Egypt as well as aid to Jordan and the Iraqi Kurds, as the region warily eyes the military intentions of the Islamic State.
In a letter to President Barack Obama last week, Granger, chairwoman of a key funding subcommittee, sharply criticized the administration for failing to provide arms that have been withheld from Egypt since 2013.
“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.”
She pointed out that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi retaliated against the Islamic State with F-16 strikes after the militants beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in neighboring Libya.
“However, it is more of the same F-16s that your administration continues to prevent from being delivered to Egypt,” said Granger.
The U.S. withheld arms to Egypt, including 20 F-16 fighter jets, 20 Harpoon missiles and 125 M1A1 battle tank kits, in 2013 after the military overthrew the elected leadership. The Pentagon is paying the F-16 builders, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corp. of Fort Worth, to store the aircraft there. Granger represents Fort Worth.
“We cannot, and need not, do this alone,” Granger said of the fight against the Islamic State, in her letter to the president. “We have partners willing and eager to fight with us, to be the ‘pointy end of the spear.’”
The Obama administration has said that it will not commit U.S. troops to fight the Islamic State.
White House reacts
Asked about Granger’s concerns, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday, “We’ve obviously worked through and, in some cases, are even still working through some of the differences that we have with that government. But there is an important counterterrorism relationship between the United States and Egypt, and we continue to believe that the interests of the United States are well served by continuing to have a strong counterterrorism relationship with them.”
He added that “we certainly welcome her interest in this issue” and said the administration was also supportive of “a strong security relationship” with Jordan and the Kurds.
Granger is the chairwoman of the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees funding for the State Department and foreign operations, and is threatening to hold up funding unless the administration acts.
One defense expert thinks the pressure will work.
“Rep. Granger is likely to get what she wants,” said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based conservative think tank, “because the Obama administration has a renewed appreciation for the value of Egypt’s military. The Egyptians have demonstrated a willingness to get involved in fighting” the Islamic State.