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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid