The U.S. has withheld military aid from Egypt this year, in part as a response to repressive measures taken against terrorist groups in the Sinai. While the U.S. is right to be concerned about human rights in Egypt, argue David Schenker and Eric Trager, American interests would be best served by helping and not hindering Egypt in its war on terror:
[S]ecurity—not democracy—is the top priority for a critical mass of Egyptians, who view their military’s Sinai campaign as vital for defeating domestic terrorism and avoiding the chaotic regional trend. Given the deadly nature of the threats Egyptians face, Western condemnation of the military’s tactics in Sinai will invariably be interpreted as hostile. For this reason, if the U.S. wants Egypt to fight terrorists in Sinai with greater consideration for human rights—and, more importantly, with greater effectiveness—Washington should act as a partner, rather than a sideline player.
At a minimum, a real partnership would necessitate the administration taking steps to ensure that counterterrorism-related military materiel is provided to Egypt without undue delay. The interminable postponement this year of the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters not only frustrated Cairo and stressed the bilateral relationship; it undermined the Sinai counterterrorism campaign. Withholding this type of critical equipment serves neither Egyptian nor Israeli nor U.S. regional interests. Beyond the timely supply of weapons systems and ammunition, the U.S. could provide the Egyptian military with technical assistance—and perhaps disclose operational intelligence for targeting—to help minimize collateral damage in the Sinai.