A few good men? U.S. aid trained and equipped Egypt's military

An Egyptian army armoured vehicle is seen in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo ahead of planned demonstrations on Aug. 18, 2013.

When we talk U.S. aid to Egypt, we’re talking in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion, nearly all of it military aid. The money goes into a bank account in New York, and Egyptian officials use it to buy equipment produced by American manufacturers.

Among the purchases, says Shana Marshall, of George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. “The M1A1 Abrams tank, produced by General Dynamics, that’s probably one of the most well known items of equipment.”  She says Egypt also buys F-16s, helicopters, communications equipment, missiles, and items used in domestic crowd control situations, like tear gas. 

The U.S. also spends money to train the Egyptian military -- Marshall estimates hundreds of members each year, including Egypt’s military chief, General al-Sisi.

“When you see the military putting down demonstrators and so on, their training and some of their equipment is underwritten by the United States,” says Mark Lagon, a professor in the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown.

So, what’s in it for the U.S.; why’s it been so hard to pull back?

Lagon says one reason is that policy makers worry about Israel. “Egypt making peace with Israel is something we want to maintain; so that one of the fronts of instability for our closest ally in the region be kept stable.”

Experts say there are other strategic reasons. There’s a sense that aid equals influence, it builds relationships. The U.S. military also has fly-over rights and gets expedited access to the Suez Canal. 

And, lots of U.S. defense industry jobs are at stake making those tanks and planes.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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