Egypt Hopes for Deeper Counterterrorism Ties with U.S.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt has expressed hopes for deeper U.S. counter-terrorism ties during talks with a top American general.

The talks followed a deadly attack that killed an officer and 10 Egyptian soldiers in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The attack, one of the deadliest in the region in recent years, was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization.

US Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, who oversees US forces in the Middle East, said following Monday’s talks in Cairo that the attack underscored the persistent threat from extremists.

“I offered my condolences and my view of the ISIS threat,” said Kurilla, head of US Central Command.

Sisi’s office said in a statement following his meeting with Kurilla that terrorism was the foremost challenge to Egypt’s security and stability and required “collective efforts to combat it.”

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Egypt has been fighting an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula for several years, which at times has spilled over into other parts of the country. Most of the attacks during this time period have been claimed by Sinai Province.

In February of 2018, Egypt launched operation “Sinai 2018” in an effort to rid the Sinai Peninsula of Islamic terrorists.

A senior US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sisi and other Egyptian officials sought a deeper counter-terrorism relationship in meetings with Kurilla on Monday.

The US military official added that Kurilla offered to send US Rear Admiral Mitchell Bradley, who leads U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, to Egypt to offer “guidance and additional assistance.”

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Kurilla’s visit, his first since taking the helm of US Central Command in April, comes less than four months since President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would cut $130 million in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns.

The US has provided Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually, of which $300 million is attached to certain conditions.

US-Egypt ties were strained under the Obama administration, which suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, before releasing it two years later.

Following the election of Donald Trump, however, ties improved. Sisi praised Trump after his election and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.

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Biden’s administration last August called Egypt a “constructive” defense partner despite concerns on human rights.

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