US releases $195 million in aid to Egypt

The Trump administration reiterated its commitment to security and counterterrorism goals with Cairo

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi during his arrival at the West Wing of the White House on April 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump and President Al Sisi are scheduled to participate in an expanded bilateral meeting. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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The Trump administration has decided to release US$195 million (Dh716.3m) in military aid to Egypt that was withheld last year over human-rights and democracy concerns, a State Department official said on Wednesday.

The official told The National that "while there remain areas of concern... recognising steps Egypt has taken over the last year in response to specific US concerns, and in the spirit of our efforts to further strengthen this partnership, the administration has decided to allow Egypt to use the remaining $195 million in FY [fiscal year] 2016 FMF [foreign military financing] for military procurements".

Bolstering US-Egyptian ties “diplomatically and in support of common security and counterterrorism goals” remains a high commitment for the administration, the official added.

The administration said it will "continue to make clear the need for progress in addressing them, including fully resolving 2013 NGO convictions and addressing our concerns about the NGO law". The US held the $195m last August. The amount is part of a $1.3 billion aid package that Washington annually gives to Cairo.

The release comes during an Egyptian military delegation visit to Washington. The delegation includes General Mohamed El-Keshky, Egypt’s assistant minister of defense for international relations, and has held meetings in Congress, at the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council.

Nicholas Heras, a defense fellow at the Centre for New American Security, said the release resembles a “down payment from the Trump administration for the Sisi government as a cornerstone of a regional security architecture that is being built by the United States, certain Gulf Arab states, and Israel”.

“The Egyptians are waging an increasingly bitter and dangerous war against an internal insurgency in multiple areas of their country,” he said.

As for human rights, Mr Heras said that the “Sisi government is a fact of life, as is the Egyptian military deep state that supports it”. The Trump team, he noted, was very careful in the wording that while it still has concerns on human rights when it comes to Egypt, “the local and regional threats that Egypt is confronting warrant more US support”.