The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

State Department cancels Egyptian soccer program funding

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was planning to spend $667,200 on a youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt, to be run through the Egyptian Ministry of Interior. However, it withdrew its funding request following the Interior Ministry’s brutal crackdowns on Egyptian youth during the anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month. The ...

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was planning to spend $667,200 on a youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt, to be run through the Egyptian Ministry of Interior. However, it withdrew its funding request following the Interior Ministry's brutal crackdowns on Egyptian youth during the anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month.

The State Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Richard Verma sent out the initial congressional notification about the Egyptian soccer program on Jan. 25, the same day that the massive popular protests broke out in Egypt. The money was to come from the State Department's account for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, demining, and related programs (NADR) from fiscal 2010 and was to be given to U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey. The program would have operated in conjunction with the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian police.

But on Tuesday, Verma sent a letter to Congress, obtained by The Cable, withdrawing the notification.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was planning to spend $667,200 on a youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt, to be run through the Egyptian Ministry of Interior. However, it withdrew its funding request following the Interior Ministry’s brutal crackdowns on Egyptian youth during the anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month.

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Richard Verma sent out the initial congressional notification about the Egyptian soccer program on Jan. 25, the same day that the massive popular protests broke out in Egypt. The money was to come from the State Department’s account for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, demining, and related programs (NADR) from fiscal 2010 and was to be given to U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey. The program would have operated in conjunction with the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian police.

But on Tuesday, Verma sent a letter to Congress, obtained by The Cable, withdrawing the notification.

"Based on the events of the past week, questions have arisen about the appropriateness and feasibility of proceeding at this time with the proposed youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt," Verma wrote, also noting that embassy personnel were preoccupied now and could not oversee the program.

"Moreover, there are questions about the role of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian Police in recent events. Before proceeding with a youth engagement activity involving the two organizations, additional time for the situation to settle is needed."

The State Department could resubmit the request for soccer program funding at a later date, Verma wrote.

For longtime critics of the State Department’s relationship with the Egyptian government, the fact that a soccer program was being planned in conjunction with the Interior Ministry shows a lack of understanding of the body’s relationship with the Egyptian population.

"You could forgive someone for thinking this congressional notification came straight from The Onion," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. "If it weren’t so pathetic — in a nutshell what’s wrong with U.S. foreign aid — it would be hysterical."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, D.C., on Aug. 25, 2013.

The Pentagon’s Office Culture Is Stuck in 1968

The U.S. national security bureaucracy needs a severe upgrade.

The Azerbaijani army patrols the streets of Shusha on Sept. 25 under a sign that reads: "Dear Shusha, you are free. Dear Shusha, we are back. Dear Shusha, we will resurrect you. Shusha is ours."

From the Ruins of War, a Tourist Resort Emerges

Shusha was the key to the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Now Baku wants to turn the fabled fortress town into a resort.

Frances Pugh in 2019's Midsommar.

Scandinavia’s Horror Renaissance and the Global Appeal of ‘Fakelore’

“Midsommar” and “The Ritual” are steeped in Scandinavian folklore. Or are they?