Egypt: U.S. to carry on with operation Bright Star in Egypt

By Konye Obaji Ori

Posted on August 1, 2013 07:08

The United States plans to hold a major military exercise in Egypt despite the ongoing tension between supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and those of the new rulers.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters on Wednesday that Operation Bright Star will take place in Egypt in mid-September.

The announcement to continue a joint US-Egypt military exercise came a day after Egypt’s army-backed interim government ordered the police to sweep the streets of pro-Morsi protesters.

Observers say removing protesters from the streets of Cairo by force could set up a potentially bloody conflict with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

But in the face of such a standoff, the US and Egyptian authorities have refused to suspend their joint military exercise.

“We’re planning on going ahead with it,” Hagel told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

Operation Bright Star dates back to 1981, and has been a keystone of US-Egyptian military relations.

It began after the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel.

The military exercises were canceled in 2011 because of the political turmoil that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

However, the exercises held every two years will not be cancelled this time around, despite the tensions in Egypt.

The US has also refrained from labelling removal of Morsi as a “coup,” because it would trigger a cut-off in aid and could require the withdrawal of military aids and funds to the Egyptian military, which runs up to $1.3 billion, annually.

Hagel has been in consistent contact with Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi since the military ousted Mursi on July 3.

Although relations between both nations have been sustained despite the ousting of Morsi, the US has halted delivery of F-16 fighter jets to the African nation.

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