CAIRO: Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the general who ousted an elected president and is set to become Egypt’s next head of state, called on the United States to help fight terrorism to avoid the creation of new Afghanistans in the Middle East.
In his first interview with an international news organization in the run-up to the May 26-27 vote, Sisi called for the resumption of US military aid, worth $1.3 billion a year, which was partially frozen after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Asked what message he has for US President Barack Obama, Sisi said: “We are fighting a war against terrorism.”
“The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbors and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the entire region is unstable,” said a quietly spoken Sisi, wearing a dark civilian suit.
“We need American support to fight terrorism, we need American equipment to use to combat terrorism.”
He said neighboring Libya, which has descended into chaos following the Western-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi, was becoming a major security threat to Egypt with terrorists infiltrating across the border to fight security forces.
Sisi said the West must understand that terrorism would reach its doorstep unless it helped eradicate it.
“The West has to pay attention to what’s going on in the world — the map of extremism and its expansion. This map will reach you inevitably,” he said.
SYRIA NEW AFGHANISTAN?
In a sideswipe at Western policy on Syria, where US and European support for rebels fighting for three years to bring down President Bashar Assad has seen a proliferation of jihadism and the fragmentation of the country, Sisi stressed the need to maintain the unity of Syria.
“Otherwise we will see another Afghanistan,” he said. “I don’t think you want to create another Afghanistan in the region.”
Islamists and the Egyptian state are old enemies. Militants assassinated President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981 because of his Camp David 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Ousted president Hosni Mubarak also survived assassination attempts by jihadis.
Some of the world’s most radical militants are Egyptian, including Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahri.
Sisi said the army was forced to intervene by a popular uprising against the Brotherhood’s partisan rule.
“The more time passes the more the vision gets clearer to everyone. People and the world realize what happened in Egypt was the will of all of the Egyptian people,” said Sisi at a hotel partly owned by the army.
“The army could not have abandoned its people or there would have been a civil war and we don’t know where that would have taken us. We understand the American position. We hope that they understand ours.”
The Brotherhood was banned as a terrorist organization in December. Former president Mohamed Mursi, ousted in July after mass protests, is facing capital charges, while the group’s spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie, has been sentenced to death along with hundreds of supporters among the Brothers.