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U.S. to Give Egypt 10 Apache Helicopters to Fight Terror in Sinai

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the U.S. will be delivering ten Apache helicopters to Egypt, conveying a statement from the Pentagon explaining that the decision had already been passed along to Cairo by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed his Egyptian counterpart of the decision, which will help Egypt’s counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai Peninsula, the Pentagon said.

“We believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian, and Israeli security,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement, recounting Hagel’s conversation with Egyptian Defence Minister Colonel Sedki Sobhi.

The move to deliver the weapons came in the aftermath of a formal confirmation by the State Department that Egypt has been upholding key geopolitical obligations, including its commitments under its peace treaty with Israel:

Kerry told Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a phone call that he believes Egypt is entitled to the aid because it is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States” and carrying out its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Reuters also conveyed a statement from Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) praising the helicopter transfer and advocating for “Egyptians to have the tools necessary to stabilize the economy and keep the country secure, including equipment that assists with counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai.”

Egypt’s army has been waging a protracted battle in the Sinai Peninsula to uproot the jihadist infrastructure that has taken root in the territory, and has leaned heavily on air power – including specifically on Apaches – in those campaigns. The Obama administration froze a range of assistance to Cairo – including specifically the anticipated Apaches – after the Egyptian army, responding to mass anti-government rallies demanding the resignation of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked then-President Mohammed Morsi, moved last July to oust Morsi and install a caretaker cabinet.

The freeze was roundly criticized by domestic analysts, U.S. lawmakers, and Washington’s Arab and Israeli allies. The Associated Press reported that the decision to deliver the Apaches came alongside a more extensive release of aid, ‘specifically those parts dealing with security in the Sinai Peninsula and counterterrorism efforts.’ Other aid, including a batch of F-16’s, remains frozen.

[Photo: US Army / Flickr]