Hunting for Egyptian Military Officers in Washington

Well, given the fact that the Egyptian military hours ago staged a popularly-backed coup in Cairo, yours truly thought he’d go ask the nearest Egyptian military officers what they thought of the events. I went straight for the "Egyptian Defence Guest House," a rundown residential building on T Street just ten-minute walk north of FP’s ...

John Reed
John Reed
John Reed

Well, given the fact that the Egyptian military hours ago staged a popularly-backed coup in Cairo, yours truly thought he'd go ask the nearest Egyptian military officers what they thought of the events.

I went straight for the "Egyptian Defence Guest House," a rundown residential building on T Street just ten-minute walk north of FP's Dupont Circle offices in Washington. I walked past the lawn chairs on which I've seen portly, middle-aged men smoking cigarettes many nights and rang the doorbell. No one answered despite the two open second floor windows.

Maybe they're all at the Egyptian embassy. If so, my colleague Isaac Stone Fish is there to try and grab 'em.

Well, given the fact that the Egyptian military hours ago staged a popularly-backed coup in Cairo, yours truly thought he’d go ask the nearest Egyptian military officers what they thought of the events.

I went straight for the "Egyptian Defence Guest House," a rundown residential building on T Street just ten-minute walk north of FP’s Dupont Circle offices in Washington. I walked past the lawn chairs on which I’ve seen portly, middle-aged men smoking cigarettes many nights and rang the doorbell. No one answered despite the two open second floor windows.

Maybe they’re all at the Egyptian embassy. If so, my colleague Isaac Stone Fish is there to try and grab ’em.

In all seriousness, it’s worth noting that Pentagon brass are trying to make the most of the ties between the U.S. military and the Egyptian armed forces.

Just yesterday, U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Egyptian defense minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi while U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi, chief of staff of the Egyptian military on Monday.

"They discussed the need to protect U.S. citizens, to protect the Egyptian people, and the need for the Egyptian military to contribute to stability in an appropriate way," is all a spokesman for Dempsey told FP about his phone call with Sobhi.

While DOD officials won’t reveal what else is being said between the two sides, one can all but guarantee both are trying to make full use of the deep relationships between the two militaries forged over decades of joint exercises and the thousands of Egyptian military officers passing through U.S. military graduate schools. The U.S. pays for up to 80% of Egypt’s weapons while the Egyptian military serves as a staunch friend to the U.S. military in the Arab world.

Dempsey’s spokesman gave an anecdotal example of how tight the two militaries are.  "It is fair to say that at the action officer level we routinely meet with representatives from the Egyptian military as we do with a large number of other countries with whom we have a close working relationship."

Remember, both Sisi and Sobhi are graduates of the U.S. Army War College.

"This is a good thing," John Cary, a professor at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College, wrote to FP. "All students at U.S. Army educational institutions are given dozens of hours of instruction and tours of American government and civil society institutions designed to acquaint them with the American system of democracy and especially the importance of civilian control of the military. Whether these lessons take or not is a different matter, but the Army is not shy about providing it."

As we wrote yesterday, the Egyptian military is one of the most powerful institutions in that society and it’s also one of the U.S.’s closest friends in the Arab world. Still, the U.S. has said it would be forced to cut off all military aid to Egypt if the nation’s armed services seized power from the elected Morsy, even if the coup had the backing of a large amount of the population. We’ll see what that means for this relationship that is vital to both the United States and Egypt.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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