Canceling U.S. participation in the Bright Star military exercise with Egypt sends a strong objection to the Egyptian government about the recent violence in the country, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
President Barack Obama announced the decision earlier today.
Despite the cancellation, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has told Egyptian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Abdelfattah al-Sisi the U.S. military will maintain its relationship with the Egyptian military.
“But I made it clear that the violence [in Egypt] and inadequate steps towards reconciliation are putting important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk,” Hagel said in a written statement.
Canceling Bright Star was a prudent step, Little said.
“We strongly encourage the government of Egypt to take appropriate measures to move toward a political transition that emphasizes inclusivity and emphasizes freedom of assembly and to take steps to refrain from violence, and exercise restraint,” he said.
More than 500 people were killed in fighting in Cairo yesterday and there have been more outbreaks of violence today.
Keeping the lines of communication open between the two militaries is important, Little said, if only “to convey the strong views of this government about developments in Egypt.”
Little said Egyptians must make these decisions, not Americans.
“I would expect contacts … to continue, and for us to continue to urge Egyptian authorities to choose the right course for the Egyptian people,” he said.