WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says the Obama administration is leaning towards withholding the delivery of additional F-16s as well as Apache helicopters to Egypt.
Withholding some parts of the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military assistance to Egypt is seen as a form of leverage to pressure that country’s military leaders to respect the human rights of its citizens following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in July.
Morsi’s overthrow led to a violent crackdown by the Egyptian military against pro-Morsi protestors that may have led to as many as 1,000 deaths. The violence led to a review of U.S. assistance to Egypt.
Since then the administration has delayed the delivery of four F-16s and canceled U.S. participation in an annual military exercise with Egypt known as Operation Bright Star.
A U.S. official told ABC News that the administration was now leaning towards withholding the delivery of additional F-16s as well as Apache attack helicopters also slated for delivery this year.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, denied a press report Tuesday that the U.S. had decided on a full cutoff of military aid to Egypt.
“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” Hayden said. “We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at UNGA (U.N. General Assembly) that assistance relationship will continue.”
In his remarks to the United Nations last month, President Obama said the United States “will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and counter-terrorism.” However, he noted that “we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a democratic path.”
In late July the administration delayed the delivery of four F-16s scheduled for delivery this past summer. The fighter jets are part of a $3 billion sale to Egypt of 20 F-16s worked out in 2009 that were to be delivered in three stages this year.
At the time, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters, “Given the current situation in Egypt, we don’t believe it is appropriate at this time to proceed with the delivery of F-16s to Egypt.”
Little indicated that the third installment of eight F-16s scheduled for delivery in the December-January timeframe would not be affected by the decision to delay the four F-16s.
In mid-August the Pentagon announced that it was canceling the annual large-scale military exercise with Egypt known as Operation Bright Star.
The Apache helicopters are also part of a big arms buy by Egypt. Delaying their delivery has been the administration’s next anticipated step if Egypt’s military government did not demonstrate progress on the governance front. The delivery of tank kits for M1-A1 Abrams tanks has also been mentioned as part of that next step.