US, Egypt cancel military exercise

By on Thursday, August 18th, 2011

The United States and Egypt have canceled a major military exercise this year to allow Egypt’s generals to focus on governing the country, officials said Wednesday.

The exercise, dubbed “Bright Star,” normally takes place every two years but will not be held later this year as previously scheduled, according to two US defense officials, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

The decision was “based on mutual agreement in light of ongoing transition events and the military leadership serving in an interim executive role,” one official said, referring to the military council governing Egypt.

The official, writing in an email, added that the decision “came through routine bilateral conversations.”

Despite the decision to cancel the exercise, the official said the two countries have “an enduring defense and security relationship” that underpins a “strong and friendly partnership.”

The next Bright Star exercise instead will take place in 2013 and formal planning by Egyptian officers will begin next June, the official said.

In Cairo, an Egyptian military official confirmed the joint exercise was called off, saying the armed forces were focused now on running the country until elections can be held.

“The duties which (the military) is conducting do not allow for joint exercises with any country,” the official said.

The military has been in charge of Egypt since a popular revolt overthrew president Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

Egypt’s military has close ties to its US counterpart and receives more than $1 billion in aid each year.

After initial US ambivalence toward the pro-democracy protests that erupted in Egypt in January, Washington welcomed the toppling of Mubarak and endorsed a transition to democracy guided by the military council.

But US officials have conveyed concerns to Egypt’s interim military rulers over what they call growing anti-Americanism in the country, including a harsh portrayal of the US ambassador in a state-run magazine.

The legal arm of a notorious Egyptian intelligence apparatus has meanwhile launched a probe of foreign funding — including American support — of civil society groups.

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