Mullen: U.S., Egypt Maintain Strong Military Bond

CAIRO, Egypt, June 8, 2011 — The U.S. mil­i­tary remains com­mit­ted to a strong bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship with Egypt’s armed forces, con­tin­u­ing a prac­tice that has endured for 30 years, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said here today.

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke with Egypt­ian and inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists after a day of meet­ings with busi­ness and aca­d­e­m­ic lead­ers and mil­i­tary offi­cials.

“In keep­ing with my government’s desire for a strong rela­tion­ship with a demo­c­ra­t­ic Egypt, this includes healthy sup­port for a capa­bil­i­ties-based approach to Egypt­ian mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion,” Mullen said.

Joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, rou­tine dia­logue, annu­al con­fer­ences and edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, he added, are part of that con­tin­u­ing sup­port.

“Rela­tion­ships real­ly do mat­ter,” Mullen said, not­ing how impor­tant this con­nec­tion — and his ongo­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Lt. Gen. Sami Hafex Ahmed Enan, chief of staff of the Egypt­ian armed forces — has been since the Egypt­ian rev­o­lu­tion began in Jan­u­ary.

“I want to re-empha­size my appre­ci­a­tion and admi­ra­tion for Gen­er­al Enan’s lead­er­ship and for how pro­fes­sion­al­ly the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary forces have com­port­ed them­selves,” the chair­man said. “The mil­i­tary stayed loy­al to the peo­ple and to the insti­tu­tions they knew those peo­ple would need mov­ing for­ward and they stayed out of the polit­i­cal debate.”

But hard work remains ahead, Mullen acknowl­edged.

“Democ­ra­cy is dif­fi­cult,” he said. “Amer­i­cans know this. It is my view that the Supreme Coun­cil also real­izes the chal­lenges they are fac­ing, the pres­sure they are under and the expec­ta­tions of the peo­ple. For our part, the U.S. mil­i­tary and the U.S. gov­ern­ment will do what we can to help sup­port an Egypt­ian-led tran­si­tion.”

In response to ques­tions about esca­lat­ing unrest in the region, Mullen said it’s a time of great uncer­tain­ty.

“What’s going on in every coun­try has a region­al effect, … whether it’s here or in Tunisia or Syr­ia or Libya, and specif­i­cal­ly to the long-term res­o­lu­tion of the Pales­tin­ian and Israeli issues,” he said, adding that res­o­lu­tion of the issues in each coun­try should come from the peo­ple them­selves.

In Libya, where NATO forces are fight­ing to pro­tect the Libyan peo­ple from harm by their own gov­ern­ment, Mullen said he’s seen “slow progress, [with] more and more indi­vid­u­als from [Libyan leader Moam­mar Gadhafi’s] regime who are defect­ing, some of whom are in the mil­i­tary.”

Last week, NATO forces made a deci­sion to extend oper­a­tions there for anoth­er 90 days, through Sept. 25, and NATO defense min­is­ters meet­ing today in Bel­gium endorsed that deci­sion. The response by NATO and oth­er coun­tries, the chair­man added, “is strong recog­ni­tion that in the long run, Gad­hafi [remain­ing] in Libya is an out­come that does not bode well for the Libyan peo­ple or Libya itself.”

From a mil­i­tary per­spec­tive, he said, “every­thing I see indi­cates a con­tin­ued drum­beat of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions to raise the pres­sure to force Gad­hafi to depart,” adding that every­one involved in the effort “would like to see this end as soon as pos­si­ble.”

In Syr­ia, the gov­ern­ment is respond­ing vio­lent­ly against demon­stra­tors.

“The pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and many oth­ers have con­demned Pres­i­dent Bashir Assad for killing his own peo­ple,” the chair­man said.

“There are very strong mes­sages com­ing from the peo­ple of Syr­ia in terms of their future, and I think Pres­i­dent Assad and the lead­ers of Syr­ia have to fig­ure out how to answer that, and the answer isn’t to crush [the peo­ple].”

Mullen has focused on Yemen for sev­er­al years, he said, “because of the grow­ing amount of ungoverned space that ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions have been able to work in,” al-Qai­da on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, in par­tic­u­lar.

Al-Qai­da, which has grown in Yemen, is “well-led, well-resourced and has shown by its actions [and] con­tin­ued strate­gic intent that it is work­ing hard to kill as many Amer­i­cans and west­ern Euro­peans as it pos­si­bly can,” Mullen said.

The ongo­ing chaos cre­at­ed in Yemen by demon­stra­tions and a vio­lent gov­ern­ment response has made the “incred­i­bly dan­ger­ous” al-Qai­da orga­ni­za­tion there “that much more dan­ger­ous,” the chair­man said.

A recent cease­fire has pro­duced a cou­ple of days of calm in Yemen, said Mullen, not­ing he’d “cer­tain­ly urge lead­ers from every side of this chal­lenge to … try to resolve the issues peace­ful­ly.”

The down­side of a much more chaot­ic and vio­lent Yemen, the chair­man said, “is not just bad for Yemen, it’s bad for the region and for the world, so we’re watch­ing it very close­ly.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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