Egypt promotes junior corps impatient over military failure

Egypt promotes junior corps impatient over military failure

Egypt promotes junior corps impatient over military failure

Egypt’s military cadets salute in front of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (5-R), during a graduation ceremony in Alexandria, Egypt,in this July photo. EPA Photo

In his purge of Egypt’s top generals, President Mohamed Morsi leaned on the support of a junior officer corps that blamed the old guard for a litany of problems within the military and for involving the armed forces too deeply in the country’s politics after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

In an interview, one ranking officer told The New York Times yesterday that the military had grown increasingly demoralized because of meager salaries, cronyism, shoddy equipment, a lack of promotion opportunities and growing confusion over the role of its leaders.

Those complaints became clear last week after gunmen killed 16 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, causing embarrassment throughout the ranks. “The military didn’t change,” said the officer, a unit commander who requested anonymity. “You can’t give me ruined cars, a hundred soldiers and ask me to secure 30 square kilometers in the desert.”

Right timing

A week after the raid on the Sinai border, Morsi on Aug. 12 dismissed the country’s two top generals and canceled a decree issued by the military before his election, which had curbed the power of the presidency.

“Changing those leaders was smart for Morsi,” the officer said. “He waited for the right timing, when the country had already taken steps along the right path.”

The unit commander told the daily that soldiers were poorly compensated and saddled with failing equipment. Dissatisfaction with the military’s leaders for staying too long grew. “For the field marshal [Hussein Tantawi] and [Chief of Staff Sami] Anan [who were dismissed by Morsi], it’s enough, really,” he said. “We want development. We want fresh blood. We don’t want ministers to remain in their positions for 30 or 40 years anymore.”

The United States said it had expected the changes, and expressed a desire to see the military and the government working well together, The Associated Press reported. “We had expected President Morsi at some point to coordinate changes in the military leadership, to name a new team,” U.S. Defense Department press secretary George Little said in Washington.

For Israel, however, Morsi’s move was a surprise, according to Israeli daily Jerusalem Post. One Israeli official called it “a very significant development,” the daily reported on Aug. 13.