Despite documented evidence that Egypt’s army has used fighter jets in carrying out human rights abuses, the head of U.S. Central Command, has announced that the Biden administration has agreed to provide Egypt with F-15 fighter jets.
General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15 that the Biden administration is planning to provide Egypt with F-15 fighter jets—despite documented evidence that Egypt’s military has used fighter jets to carry out human rights abuses.
“In the case of Egypt, I think we have good news in that we’re going to provide them with F-15s, which was a long, hard slog,” McKenzie said in the hearing.
“They felt it was too long, it took too long,” he added. “That’s the basic criticism of our ability to provide weapons to our friends and partners: It takes too long to actually get them. It moves in fits and starts.”
Egypt “killed civilians” using American equipment
According to “Disclose”, an investigative website in a report based on leaked documents published on November 21, Egypt used intelligence supplied by the French military to target and kill civilians suspected of smuggling.
According to the report, titled, “Operation Sirli”, French intelligence was meant to support Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts on the border with Libya.
It quickly became clear, however, that Egypt was instead using it to “facilitate the murders of civilians who were suspected of smuggling activity.”
According to Disclose’s sources, the French forces sent to support their Egyptian counterparts may have been involved in at least 19 airstrikes against civilians between 2016 and 2018 in Egypt.
The French team reportedly expressed concerns to their superiors over how the intelligence was being abused on a number of occasions, and “the French presidential office was kept constantly informed,” but neither the political nor military leadership took any action in response.
As shocking as the revelations are, this would not be the first time that Egyptian security forces took advantage of foreign military support, including U.S. equipment, to attack civilians:
The year before these bombings began, Egyptian forces used a U.S.-supplied Boeing Apache helicopter to target a tour group, killing 12 people and leaving U.S. citizen April Corley permanently disabled, reported The Washington Post.
Allison McManus, research director at the Freedom Initiative, said that Disclose’s documents provide further proof that “France knew Egypt was killing civilians in the name of counterterrorism before and during its surveillance operations in the country (just as the United States knows and continues to supply arms, like the Hellfire missiles referenced in the report).”
The State Department has not yet formally notified Congress of the proposed sale. McKenzie’s announcement comes just days after 19 senators voted in favor of blocking another arms sale to Egypt over human rights concerns.
McKenzie also claimed, “And of course, with our weapons come our values. . . . They’re not going to be able to do anything they want with those weapons.”
Egypt’s military’s track record suggests otherwise: Among other examples, the armed forces have previously used U.S.-provided aircraft to attack a tour group, killing 12 people and permanently maiming U.S. citizen April Corley.
The explanatory statement in the Fiscal Year 2022 spending bill recently signed into law by President Joe Biden calls for the secretary of state to take Corley’s case into account when considering whether to release military aid to Egypt.
US Congress’s Egypt Caucus urges investigations
The Congress’s Egypt Human Rights Caucus released a statement on December 1 calling on the Biden administration to investigate recent reports about the Egyptian Air Force’s alleged misuse of U.S.-supplied equipment to kill suspected smugglers.
The statement followed revelations by French investigative outlet Disclose showing that Egyptian forces used military intelligence provided by the French government—and advanced combat aircraft supplied by the United States—to target and arbitrarily execute civilians suspected of smuggling.
The caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), wrote, “This possible misuse of American-supplied equipment (including Cessna 208s and F-16s) would violate U.S. law, the terms of contracts signed with the United States, and undermine U.S. policy that has aimed to support a rights-respecting Egyptian government that can protect itself from legitimate threats.”
They pointed out that the allegations are “consistent with past reports suggesting a systematic shoot-first strategy by the Egyptian military in the Western desert,” including the 2015 incident in which Egyptian forces used a U.S.-supplied Boeing Apache helicopter to target a tour group, killing 12 people and leaving U.S. citizen April Corley permanently disabled.
“If these reports are substantiated, we urge the President to freeze military assistance and to consider whether the Egyptian military officials responsible should be subject to the relevant human rights sanctions,” added the group.
The caucus concluded, “These reports, if confirmed, should spur a deeper debate about the value the American taxpayer gets from gifting $1.3 billion in weaponry to Egypt’s military-run regime. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to press for directing America’s limited foreign assistance resources to governments whose values and actions align with our national interests.”