US Cuts Off More Military Aid to Egypt

The U.S . is suspending the delivery of additional military aid to Egypt that includes big weapons systems like F-16's, Apache helicopters, kits for M1-A1 Abrams tanks and the Harpoon missile system. It is also withholding $260 million in cash payouts to Egypt, which receives $1.5 billion in total U.S. aid annually.

The administration's goal is to convince Egypt's leaders that progress is necessary on restoring an inclusive, nonviolent democracy there while preserving American national security interests in the region. President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by Egypt's military leaders on July 3, prompting a wave of protests that led to deadly crackdowns by the new interim government. An estimated 1,000 Egyptians are estimated to have died as part of the crackdown on protests.

Over the summer the administration delayed the delivery of F-16 aircraft and canceled U.S. participation in a large scale-annual military exercise. Those moves were designed to send a message to Egypt's new leaders that the U.S. wanted to see a quick return to an inclusive democratic government.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, senior administration officials laid out why they were withholding this aid, but also continuing with other forms of aid that will maintain American national security interests in the region. The administration is continuing with funding for counterterrorism, military education and training, securing Egypt's borders and securing the Sinai.

One official said the aid "will not be delivered until there's progress towards the inclusive democracy that we want to see. So I think that's a pretty clear signal of the U.S. approach and the importance that we place on the issues that we're talking about." While the delivery of big-ticket items has been suspended, the flow of spare parts will continue.

The officials did not want to put a dollar amount on the value of the military aid being suspended beyond saying, "We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance." One official said holding back that amount of assistance "is a pretty clear message." Actually, they said that several times.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed Egypt's top military leader, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, of the administration's decision in a 40-minute call Wednesday in which he stressed that this was not a permanent cut. One official said, 'They left the call on a very cordial, professional and positive tone." The official said General Sisi restated his commitment to protecting U.S. facilities and for Egypt to "take steps on the political roadmap, with the goal of an inclusive, representative democracy."

Hagel is the administration's point man to Egypt's interim government and has spoken with General Sisi more than 20 times since the military ousted President Morsi on July 3, and officials on the call said there had been no change to the administration's decision over whether that ouster was a coup.

Officials confirmed that other forms of aid will continue, such as economic assistance to programs that directly benefit the Egyptian people in areas like health, democracy and governance.

Similar to Hagel's assessment, the officials reiterated that this "recalibration" of aid is "not meant to be permanent" so it's really a suspension and will be reviewed periodically.