Tue Sep 5, 2017 05:15PM
US Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) and Egypt's Central Military Zone Commander General Ayman Abdelhamid Amer stand for the playing of the US national anthem following Mattis' arrival to place a wreath at the memorial of the Unknown Soldier in Cairo on April 20, 2017. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) and Egypt's Central Military Zone Commander General Ayman Abdelhamid Amer stand for the playing of the US national anthem following Mattis' arrival to place a wreath at the memorial of the Unknown Soldier in Cairo on April 20, 2017. (AFP photo)

Egypt has announced that it will resume hosting joint military exercises with the United States following an eight-year hiatus.

Colonel Tamer el-Rifai, an Egyptian military spokesman, said Tuesday that the two countries would begin the 10-day maneuver on September 10.

Egypt and the US began the drills, known as the “Bright Star”, in 1981 and staged it each two years until 2011 when former US President Barack Obama decided to suspend the action following a popular uprising that led to the ouster of the long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak. The Obama administration then cancelled the exercises after a democratically-elected government was removed from power in a coup led by then army chief and current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The military strongman was elected to power next year but failed to convince Washington to resume the drills as the White House felt increasing pressure over its inaction to deal with human rights abuses in Egypt.

However, US President Donald Trump has hailed Egypt a key ally in the fight against terrorism although hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands remain in jails over opposing Sisi’s rule. 

US President Donald Trump (R) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP photo)

Most of those affected in the crackdown are followers and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest party in the Muslim world and the dominant political force in the government which preceded Sisi’s. Senior Brotherhood figures, including former President Mohammed Morsi, have been given hefty death or life sentences as rights campaigners press Western governments to stop helping the crackdown by giving Sisi more and more aids.

To save face, the Trump administration stopped last month a payment to Egypt of some USD 300 million in military and economic aids. Cairo formally protested the move and defended its rights records.