Egypt Says Suspended U.S. Military Exercises to Resume

CAIRO (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump, right, with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in Riyadh in May. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Egypt’s armed forces said on Tuesday that joint U.S.–Egyptian military exercises will resume this month for the first time since 2009, after U.S. officials cancelled them in 2013 following an Egyptian army crackdown on protests.

The joint training is usually held every two years but was also cancelled in 2011 after the “Arab Spring” uprising that year that overthrew Egypt’s longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The announcement on the “Bright Star” exercises came weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration denied Egypt $95.7 million in aid and delayed $195 million because of its failure to progress on respecting rights and democratic norms.

The exercises will take place from Sept. 10-20 at the new Mohamed Najuib military base in west Alexandria, according to a statement on the Egyptian military’s official social media page.

“The Bright Star training is considered one of the most important joint Egyptian-American armed forces exercises, which reflects the depth of relations and cooperation between the armed forces of both countries,” the Egyptian statement said.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media confirmed the timing and location of the exercise and said U.S. Central Command is due to make an official announcement soon.

Egypt is one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, and U.S. military aid has long cemented its historic 1979 peace deal with Israel. Home to the Suez Canal, the stability of the Arab world’s most populous state is a U.S. priority.

But the strategic relationship hit a low under former U.S. President Barack Obama, who briefly froze aid to Egypt after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew his Islamist freely elected predecessor in 2013 after mass protests against him.

Washington provides $1.3 billion in military aid and about $250 million in economic aid to Egypt every year.

Trump has moved to reset U.S. relations with Sisi, giving him firm backing and vowing to work together to fight Islamic terrorists.

U.S. sources have said last month’s decision to freeze aid reflected a desire to continue security cooperation but also express frustration with Cairo’s stance on civil liberties. A new law regulating non-governmental organizations is widely seen as part of a growing crackdown on dissent.