News / Middle East

US Watches Egypt’s Army as Protests Continue

Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, foreground , fight with anti-Mubarak protesters, rear, standing on army tanks in Cairo, February 2, 2011
Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, foreground , fight with anti-Mubarak protesters, rear, standing on army tanks in Cairo, February 2, 2011
Al Pessin

Egypt’s military is playing a pivotal and perhaps evolving role in the demonstrations in Egypt, and U.S. defense leaders are staying in close touch with their counterparts in Cairo.  So far officials and analysts say the army is acting properly, but they also note that the situation is changing constantly.

As crowds of anti-government protesters clashed with government supporters Wednesday, the Egyptian Army units in the streets mostly stood on the sidelines.  To some observers, including Dr. Tawfik Hamid, that seemed to change on Thursday.

“Certainly, they are changing," said Hamid. "It’s not 180 degrees but I can see there is the beginning of a change.  They started today to protect the demonstrators from the Mubarak supporters.”

That change, noted by the senior fellow at the Potomac Institute, coincided with official Egyptian condemnation of the violence instigated by pro-government demonstrators - violence widely believed to have been orchestrated by senior officials.  On Monday, Dr. Hamid predicted the Army would side with the protesters and force President Hosni Mubarak to resign.  That had not happened by Thursday, and Hamid believes the Army leadership is running out of time.

“The more the military is showing delay in taking a clear stand with the people against Mubarak, the more the people will feel they [the soldiers] are part of Mubarak and they will never trust them in the future," he said.

The Egyptian Army leaders are in a delicate position, after decades of following President Mubarak, himself a former military man.  So far, Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan says the troops are doing a good job.

“To date, we have seen them act professionally and with restraint," said Colonel Lapan. "It’s a very fluid situation so we’re watching every single day.”

Retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Eaton agrees.

“What I have seen is an army that is behaving rationally," said Eaton. "I don’t know what their standing orders are, but their conduct seems to be stable, friendly, engaged with the people.”

General Eaton, now a senior advisor to the National Security Network research organization, visited Cairo in 2003 for talks with senior Egyptian military leaders.  He says he was impressed with the level of comfort he found in the U.S.-Egyptian military relationship.

“It was beyond cordial," he said. "There was a warmth associated with it that I would expect has been brought to play here.  We’ve got a strong relationship.  And that has proven very helpful in the past with other armies.  I would expect that it will prove so [in] this case.”

Indeed, the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, has spoken at least twice with his Egyptian counterpart in the last few days, and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has had at least three conversations with Egypt’s defense minister.

The close relationship comes from decades of exchanges, meetings, training courses and military equipment sales following the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1979.  The White House press secretary says some of that could be in jeopardy, depending on how the Egyptian government handles the current crisis.

The Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Lapan, says much of the training these days involves high technology air, sea and counter-terrorism gear.  But he says it also includes officer training at the same U.S. military schools American officers attend.

“It’s leadership," he said. 'It’s military skills.  But it’s really about being a professional military force.  So it’s inculcating in their officers the same thing that happens for officers in our military force.”

That includes values such as respect for civilian authority and for the rights of the people - concepts that could come into conflict in Egypt if the government orders a crackdown on the demonstrators.  When the United States has cut off such training for other countries, such as Indonesia, because of Human Rights violations, analysts say the loss of contact has made those militaries more likely to violate their people’s rights, and made it more difficult for the United States to exert influence.

At least so far, the opposite is true in Egypt, where American officers have extensive contacts and at least the ability to be heard by key military players.  The retired general, Paul Eaton, attended an advanced officer training course with an Egyptian general, and saw other Egyptian officers in action when he supervised training programs.  He calls them “sober” and “professional,” and says the junior officers are in touch with the conscript soldiers who serve under them.

“What I am hoping is that the army retains a role that will not challenge their credibility in the eyes of the Egyptian people and that they will serve as the primary broker for whatever change we now see in the Egyptian leadership," he said.

U.S. officials are using their contacts to do what they can to encourage a governmental transition and to promote restraint by the Egyptian Army.  The next big test will come Friday - traditionally a day for protests after the main mid-day Muslim prayers of the week.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid