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US Eases Restrictions on Egypt Military Aid

Apr. 23, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By AWAD MUSTAFA and ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS   |   Comments
Aid Is Coming: After five years, Egypt will be receiving 10 Apaches that have been on order.
Aid Is Coming: After five years, Egypt will be receiving 10 Apaches that have been on order. (Boeing)
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DUBAI AND WASHINGTON — The US government is moving forward with $650 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Egypt’s military, part of an easing of restrictions that were put in place following the coup that removed former President Mohamed Morsi from power in 2013.

The announcement of the unfreezing of funds coincides with a separate delivery that had also been held up of 10 AH-64D Block II Apache Longbow helicopters, according to Egyptian military sources.

The Pentagon stated that delivery would only be made within 30 days after the payments are made.

“The State Department must also notify Congress that funds are being apportioned that will allow the US military departments to continue making payments on existing contracts,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Defense News.

“The notification allows Congress 15 days to review before State Department moves ahead with the apportionment of funds. The apportionment process can take several days. We expect that the aircraft can be made ready for shipment within 30 days after funds are made available.”

The expected delivery of the assault helicopters comes almost five years after an Egyptian military request for the equipment and just in time to boost its counterinsurgency operations in Sinai.

Retired Egyptian Air Defence Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Morsi confirmed the delivery to Defense News, stating that shipping procedures to transfer the helicopters have already begun.

Briefing reporters April 23, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described the Apaches as an important part of Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts, an area of aid that the Obama administration maintained even during the pause in support after Morsi was ousted.

“Egypt faces a significant and growing threat from extremist groups, particularly in the Sinai, and in the past several months has used Apache helicopters as a significant component of its counterterrorism operations in the Sinai,” she said. “So we believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten not just Egypt, but Israeli security as well as the United States. And this is one element of a broader counterterrorism strategy.”

The Egyptian Embassy issued a statement, saying, “We welcome the Administration’s decision to lift restrictions on some US military assistance to Egypt, including the release for transfer of 10 Apache helicopters critical to our fight against extremist terrorist organizations operating in the Sinai.

“Both Egyptian and American officials recognize that extremist groups are waging a calculated and coordinated campaign to turn Sinai into a launching pad to train, plan and execute terror attacks against the Egyptian people, global commerce, civilians and foreign nationals.

“We look forward to continued U.S. support for Egypt’s security and economic requirements by encouraging cooperation in various domains and removing obstacles and restrictions hindering the further advancement of our bilateral relations and partnership.”

The $650 million comes from a total of $1.3 billion in planned FMF funds that were part of the 2014 budget. While hundreds of millions will be released pending congressional notification, the residual is still being held up because the State Department hasn’t certified that democracy has been restored in Egypt. Until that certification occurs, the type of aid that can be provided is limited by law to a select group of areas, including counterterrorism.

This past week, State did certify that Egypt is maintaining its strategic relationship with the United States and abiding by its treaty obligations to Israel, allowing for the Apaches and some of the funds to be released.

The release of some of the funds is a sign that the US is continuing to use military aid as a lever, while trying to maintain its close relationship with Egypt, said Nora Bensahel, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

“This is an important tool to try to maintain some amount of influence and connection with the Egyptian military,” she said. “If those funds were completely cut off and stayed completely cut off, it would send an isolating message to the regime,” she said.

A request handed to the US Congress on May 22, 2009, from the Egyptian government sought 12 Apaches with equipment, parts, training and support for an estimated $820 million.

According to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the request included 27 T700-GE-701D engines, 36 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 28 M299 Hellfire Longbow missile launchers, 14 AN/ALQ-144(V)3 infrared jammers, and 14 AN/APR-39B(V)2 radar signal detecting sets.

The prime contractors are Boeing, General Electric and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

“The delay was due to the military aid being stopped by the US,” Maj Gen Morsi said. “According to the aid agreement, the Egyptian government does not receive any cash for military purchases but the US government directly pays contractors to provide the equipment.

“President [Barack] Obama resumed the aid and the helicopters will be the first items to be delivered,” Morsi added.

Psaki said that US Secretary of State John Kerry informed Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, of the decision in a telephone call, April 22.

Morsi said the Apaches will help with ongoing counter-terrorism operations.

“This will boost our operations in Sinai due to the bad weather conditions that we have been experiencing and technical repairs the Air Force has to go through,” Morsi said. “The Air Force was involved in the operations and the speedy delivery will increase our force’s capabilities in Sinai,” he said. ■

Email: amustafa@defensenews.com; zbiggs@defensenews.com.

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