A US Naval ship deploys an Egyptian tank on the coast of Egypt's northern El-Alamein region during the Bright Star joint war games on September 15, 2005.
As Egypt plunges deeper into chaos and political turmoil, Washington is concerned it might lose “an eager ally” that has been facilitating US military operations in the region, a report says.
Unlike other countries, including close allies of the US which require up to a week’s notice to allow American warplanes to cross their airspace, Egypt offers the US “near- automatic approval” to resupply the war in Afghanistan through its territory or to carry out operations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia or the Horn of Africa, according to The New York Times.
In times of crisis, US warships are also allowed to cut to the front of the line through the Suez Canal even at rush hours when it is swarming with oil tankers.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 - after Turkey refused to allow the US military to use its territory for crossing into Iraq- Egypt gave the Pentagon the green light for two aircraft battle groups and accompanying aircraft to cross the Suez Canal and other parts of its territory, according to Professor Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military.
US officials are now worried that falling out of favor with Egyptian generals would constrain US military operations in the region and significantly increase their flight times, the Times said.
“We need them for the Suez Canal, we need them for the peace treaty with Israel, we need them for the over-flights, and we need them for the continued fight against violent extremists who are as much of a threat to Egypt’s transition to democracy as they are to American interests,” said Gen. James N. Mattis, who retired this year as head of the military’s Central Command.
Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes across Egypt since Wednesday when security forces raided two camps filled with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government were removed from power by the military on July 3.
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama, who has not called the ouster of Morsi a coup, condemned Egypt’s military-led interim government, and said the US was canceling a planned joint military exercise in protest over the bloody clashes.
"We deplore violence against civilians," he told reporters in Martha's Vineyard, where he is on a vacation.
The US gives $1.5 billion in military and economic assistance to Egypt every year making the North African nation the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel.