• 02:07
  • Thursday ,09 June 2011

US military chief reaffirms support for Egypt army, evades question on military trials

By-Brett Borkan-Daily News Egypt

Home News


Thursday ,09 June 2011

US military chief reaffirms support for Egypt army, evades question on military trials

CAIRO: The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Tuesday and Wednesday, and reaffirmed his country’s continued support for both the Egyptian Armed Forces and government.

Mullen told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon that he came to Egypt to convey to Lt. General Sami Annan, Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, that the “United States military remains committed to a strong bilateral relationship with [both] the Egyptian Armed Forces” and “a democratic Egypt.”
According to Mullen, US support for the Egyptian military will continue to include “military modernization” programs and joint “Bright Star exercises,” in addition to “routine dialogue, annual conferences, and educational opportunities.”
Mullen also expressed his “awe and respect” for “how professional the Egyptian military forces have comported themselves,” adding that he is “grateful [to have stayed] in touch with Lt. General Annan throughout the events which have occurred since last January.”
Comparing the handling of the events in Egypt to events in Libya and Syria, Mullen went on to applaud the Egyptian military for staying “loyal to the people,” staying “out of political debate,” and making “a decision to not kill their own people.”
In regards to his views on the continued performance of the Egyptian military, which has been called into question for subjecting civilians to military trials and allegations of torture, Mullen said that while he “discussed a whole host of issues” with the Egyptian military leadership, he “keeps those conversations private.”
He did mention, however, that the conversation touched critical challenges that “face [Egypt] in the future,” such as economic issues and the “importance” of the upcoming elections.
Mullen also explained that the Egyptian “leadership very clearly understands that security is absolutely critical to the continuing of this smooth transition to a democracy.”
Offering words of caution, the US official exclaimed that as “Americans know … democracy is difficult.”
“It is my view that the [Egyptian Supreme Military Council] also realizes the challenges they are facing, the pressure they are under, and the expectations of the people. And again, for our part, the United States military and the United States government can do what we can to help support an Egyptian-led transition.”
Responding to a question on US, Israeli, and Egyptian military relations, Mullen emphasized the importance of personal relationships and his confidence in the continuation of peace in the region.
“I’ve known the leaders of both the Israeli Defense Force as well as the Egyptian Armed Forces for years, and I think it is the relationships between us, and amongst us… that underpin the 30 years peace that we’ve had,” Mullen said, adding that he has not spoken to a single person who “doesn’t want to see that peace and that stability continue.”
Mullen also turned to the issue of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, saying that he hasn’t “been able to detect” any “significant downside” to the recent opening.
Turning to other parts of the region, Mullen reiterated US calls for embattled Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi to relinquish power, adding that “Qaddafi in Libya is an outcome that does not bode well for the Libyan people.”
Mullen highlighted the substantial, but “very slow progress” that has been made in Libya, evidencing that “more and more individuals from [Qaddafi’s] regime are defecting, some of whom are in the military.” However, he cautioned that it would be a challenge for anybody to put a timetable on when Qaddafi would ultimately fall.
Concerning Yemen, Mullen said that he “honestly [does] not know … the medical prognosis” of injured President Ali Abdullah Saleh, or whether he will return to power after receiving medical care in Saudi Arabia.
Emphasizing the importance of resolving the conflict in Yemen as quickly as possible, Mullen noted the danger posed to the region and to the US by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who he called a “virulent and deadly” Al-Qaeda branch that is “well resourced” and “working hard to kill as many Americans and Western Europeans as it can.”