State Department Notes ‘Constructive’ Egyptian Military Role

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2011 — News reports from Cairo indi­cate the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary is not tak­ing sides in the demon­stra­tions and counter demon­stra­tions tak­ing place in the coun­try.
State Depart­ment spokesman P.J. Crow­ley said the U.S. gov­ern­ment is in dai­ly con­tact with defense and mil­i­tary lead­ers.

“I think that broad­ly speak­ing, the mil­i­tary has played a very impor­tant and con­struc­tive role in being a sta­bi­liz­ing force on the ground, par­tic­u­lar­ly, … rel­a­tive to what the sit­u­a­tion looked like, … pri­or to the week­end,” he said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence today. “Yes­ter­day was a bad day for Egypt.”

Crow­ley said there are indi­ca­tions the mil­i­tary is adjust­ing its move­ments today in response to the riot­ing and fight­ing yes­ter­day. Still, “we are very impressed by the pos­ture and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism dis­played by the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary,” Crow­ley said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has spo­ken three times with Defense Min­is­ter Field Mar­shal Hus­sein Tanta­wi since the demon­stra­tions start­ed in Egypt.

“To date we have seen them act pro­fes­sion­al­ly and with restraint,” said Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan. “Again, it’s a very flu­id sit­u­a­tion, so we are watch­ing every sin­gle day.”

The Unit­ed States is review­ing mil­i­tary aid to Egypt, but has not stopped send­ing aid, White House Press Sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs said yes­ter­day. “We will eval­u­ate the actions of the gov­ern­ment of Egypt in mak­ing and review­ing deci­sions about aid,” Gibbs said dur­ing yesterday’s White House media brief­ing. “That con­tin­ues.”

Lapan said mil­i­tary aid is episod­ic.

“It’s not like some­thing is hap­pen­ing every day,” he said. “It comes and goes over time, whether there is a sched­uled deliv­ery that’s hap­pen­ing right now or in the future.”

The State and Defense depart­ments man­age the for­eign mil­i­tary sales pro­gram. Sys­tems have been approved and are sched­uled for deliv­ery to Egypt this year, includ­ing include coastal patrol craft, air com­bat maneu­ver­ing instru­men­ta­tion, spare parts for F-16 fight­er jets, air defense mis­siles and fus­es for cer­tain muni­tions.

About 625 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers are based in Egypt, most of them as part of the Unit­ed Nations Multi­na­tion­al Force and Observers in the Sinai. Their mis­sion has not changed, Lapan said.

The colonel said the depart­ment is con­duct­ing pru­dent plan­ning if called upon to exe­cute a non­com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tion order.

“I don’t want to leave the impres­sion that we’re active­ly plan­ning and on the verge of some­thing,” he said. “As the sit­u­a­tion devel­ops, we’re always look­ing from a mil­i­tary stand­point at what’s hap­pen­ing, and what we might do should we be called upon.”

He stressed there the State Depart­ment has not request­ed any type of evac­u­a­tion assis­tance from the Pen­ta­gon.

For more than 30 years, Egypt­ian offi­cers and non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers have trained and attend­ed pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion along­side Amer­i­can offi­cers and NCOs. For­eign mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers train­ing along­side U.S. per­son­nel learn lead­er­ship and mil­i­tary skills, “but it’s real­ly about being a pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary force,” Lapan said.

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

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