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U.S. State Department notes "constructive" Egyptian Military role

News reports from Cairo indicate the Egyptian military is not taking sides in the demonstrations and counter demonstrations taking place in the country.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. government is in daily contact with defense and military leaders.

“I think that broadly speaking, the military has played a very important and constructive role in being a stabilizing force on the ground, particularly, … relative to what the situation looked like, … prior to the weekend,” he said during a news conference today. “Yesterday was a bad day for Egypt.”

Crowley said there are indications the military is adjusting its movements today in response to the rioting and fighting yesterday. Still, “we are very impressed by the posture and the professionalism displayed by the Egyptian military,” Crowley said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has spoken three times with Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi since the demonstrations started in Egypt.

“To date we have seen them act professionally and with restraint,” said Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan. “Again, it’s a very fluid situation, so we are watching every single day.”

The United States is reviewing military aid to Egypt, but has not stopped sending aid, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday. “We will evaluate the actions of the government of Egypt in making and reviewing decisions about aid,” Gibbs said during yesterday’s White House media briefing. “That continues.”

Lapan said military aid is episodic.

“It’s not like something is happening every day,” he said. “It comes and goes over time, whether there is a scheduled delivery that’s happening right now or in the future.”

The State and Defense departments manage the foreign military sales program. Systems have been approved and are scheduled for delivery to Egypt this year, including include coastal patrol craft, air combat maneuvering instrumentation, spare parts for F-16 fighter jets, air defense missiles and fuses for certain munitions.

About 625 U.S. service members are based in Egypt, most of them as part of the United Nations Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai. Their mission has not changed, Lapan said.

The colonel said the department is conducting prudent planning if called upon to execute a noncombatant evacuation order.

“I don’t want to leave the impression that we’re actively planning and on the verge of something,” he said. “As the situation develops, we’re always looking from a military standpoint at what’s happening, and what we might do should we be called upon.”

He stressed there the State Department has not requested any type of evacuation assistance from the Pentagon.

For more than 30 years, Egyptian officers and noncommissioned officers have trained and attended professional military education alongside American officers and NCOs. Foreign military service members training alongside U.S. personnel learn leadership and military skills, “but it’s really about being a professional military force,” Lapan said.

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