The top U.S. military officer has cautioned against any move to cut U.S. aid to Egypt's military in the midst of the current protests, saying the aid has "intangible benefits" that contribute to the military's neutral and, so far, non-violent role in the crisis.
In an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America, Admiral Mike Mullen rejected threats by some members of Congress to cut the $1.3 billion of annual U.S. aid to Egypt if a government transition does not happen soon.
"There's a lot of uncertainty out there, and I would just caution against doing anything, until we really understand what's going on," said Mullen.
Admiral Mullen says the aid, including a substantial military component, benefits the United States, as well as Egypt. He said the long and close U.S.-Egyptian military relationship has paid dividends in the current crisis, after years of American training of Egyptian officers.
"Beyond just the equipment and those kinds of things, what that has also done is establish a relationship with the Egyptian military, which is one between our militaries of great strength," added Mullen. "And there are some intangibles associated with that tied to how they handle themselves, and how the focus and what they understand about who they should be, which are very, very positive."
Admiral Mullen is referring to the mostly neutral role the troops in the streets have played and their restraint in not using their weapons against the demonstrators. In addition, senior American and Egyptian officers have long-standing and close relationships, creating a valuable back channel of communications. The admiral himself has spoken twice in the last week with his Egyptian counterpart, Lieutenant General Sami Anan.
"In my discussions with General Anan, he has assured me, he's not going to fire on his people, that they are very focused on the people of Egypt," explained Mullen. "They would like this, clearly, to transition peacefully. There are more army forces out today. You can see them just in the pictures. And so they've worked very hard to remain neutral, and they really do want to continue to do that."
The admiral said U.S. forces in the Middle East are in what he called a "higher state of awareness" as they monitor the crisis in Egypt, but their alert level has not been raised.