The United States will curtail millions of dollars in aid to Egypt in the coming months in response to a violent crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The U.S. plans to cut $216 million of the $1.5 billion it provides to Egypt each year. The figure will stop the transfer of a variety of large-scale military aircraft and vehicles, including F-16s, Apache helicopters and M1A1 tank kits to Egypt. The U.S. will continue to provide spare parts for existing equipment, as well as training for members of the Egyptian military.
In announcing the news, the State Department stressed the importance of the U.S. relationship with Egypt, which it says continues, although it has changed significantly since an uprising in Spring 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarek.
The reduced aid is a way for the U.S. to demonstrate deep deep concern for the way the General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's military forced Morsi from power and the bloody aftermath.
The Egyptian military removed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, from the presidency in early July amid escalating protests over his economic policies during his first year in office.
“We have decided to maintain our relationship with the Egyptian government while recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
A senior administration official said the decision will be reviewed on a periodic basis and noted that the State Department is working with Congress to assess developments in Egypt and whether Sisi is implementing democratic reforms.
The U.S. will continue to channel funds that benefit the Egyptian people in areas such as health care, education and private-sector development. It also will continue funds aimed at securing Egypt's borders, fighting terrorism and “ensuring security in the Sinai,” Psaki said.
“This is not meant to be permanent – it's meant to be the opposite...certain things are being withheld until we find progress in the things we care about – inclusive democracy,” an official said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel phoned Sisi earlier Wednesday to inform him of the U.S. decision, and discussed the need to provide for the security of American facilities in Egypt and the goal of providing a more inclusive government for all Egyptians, the official said.
Sisi is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College, and the U.S. is continuing to train members of the Egyptian military, many of who are currently in U.S. classrooms already.
“This matters a great deal to the U.S. and the Egyptians and it is really a symbol of our long-term relationship with Egypt ... and that will continue,” the official said.
Over the summer amid deadly clashes between the egyptian military and supporters of Morsi, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said U.S. law requires that foreign assistance be cut off in the aftermath of a military coup against an elected government.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values,” he said in a statement in early July.
The Obama administration has avoided calling Morsi's forced removal a “coup,” which would trigger an immediate freeze in in aid. On Wednesday, administration officials said they had not revisited that issue and have no plans to do so.
CNN Tuesday night first reported administration plans to significantly cut back aid to Egypt but the White House quickly quashed those reports, saying no final decisions had been made.