US Military Aid to Egypt in Question

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Morsi chant slogans against Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during clashes with Egyptian security forces in Cairo's Mohandessin neighborhood, Egypt,, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Pentagon officials said that military aid and the decades-long close relationship with the Egyptian military had been jeopardized by the ongoing bloody assaults on street demonstrators, but they essentially conceded that the Defense Department had little leverage with the military takeover leaders.

"There will be adjustments" to the $1.3 billion in military aid that Egypt receives annually from the U.S. if the street violence persists, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

"Our traditional cooperation can't endure when civilians are being killed in the streets," she said.

President Obama on Thursday cancelled the Bright Star joint training exercises with the Egyptians that had been planned for mid-September, but he stopped short of cutting off the $1.3 billion in military assistance.

The cancellation of Bright Star had little impact on the Egyptian military. The biannual exercise has not been held since 2009, since the 2011 Bright Star event was cancelled in the turmoil that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Preparations for Bright Star this year had languished, and Pentagon officials brushed aside questions on whether the U.S. European and Central Commands had even designated units to participate in the exercise.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has phoned his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, more than 15 times since the July 3 military takeover that toppled President Mohammed Morsi, but al-Sissi thus far has ignored Hagel's calls for restraint and a speedy return to democratic rule.

Army Lt. Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, would only say of the phone calls that "I'm not going to characterize whether he (Hagel) thinks they've been successful."  Warren said that Hagel would continue to press al-Sissi to "get all the stakeholders together" in Egypt for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon suspended the delivery of four F-16s to send the message to al-Sissi that he was risking a military aid cutoff, but Egypt already has 240 F-16s in its Air Force.

The scheduled delivery of $395 million in repair kits for Egypt's M1A1 Abrams tanks was also in question. The kits from General Dynamics Land Systems were due for delivery to Egypt in July, but the kits have yet to arrive.

In a rebuke to the U.S., the office of Adli Mansour, the interim Egyptian president, issued a statement charging that Obama's remarks warning against the military crackdown "would strengthen the violent armed groups and encourage them in their methods inimical to stability and the democratic transition."

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Egypt Military Aid Richard Sisk
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