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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid