The United States would lose vital military assets if Egypt fell to radical Islamists, experts on military and intelligence issues say.
"Let me count the ways," retired U.S. Army Col. Ken Allard told The Washington Times when asked about the potential damage. "They are our biggest strategic partner in the Middle East. At that point, you've lost your biggest Arab partner. Geostrategically, the mind boggles."
With a hostile regime in Egypt, the United States would likely lose access to the Suez Canal, which sharply reduces the amount of time it takes for U.S. warships to reach the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt receives upwards of $1 billion annually in U.S. military aid. Other U.S. allies in the region send their own personnel to Egypt to participate in an exercise called Bright Star to practice ground operations, urban warfare and air assaults.
"The biggest threat is that rather than having an ally in Mubarak, who has helped keep a lid on radical jihadists in Egypt at this pivotal crossroads, you may have a government that facilitates radical jihadists throughout the region and as a potential export location to other parts of the world, primarily into Europe," said former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Allard expressed concern that a growing number of Egyptian military officers are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.
"What you've got is a generational situation in the officer corps in Egypt," he said. "If you had a council of colonels, it would probably be a lot more Islamists," who "have their own grudges against israel and the U.S. I'm sure there are people in the officer corps, who we do not know their names yet, who have got their own generational grudges. Over time, that has become a much more troubling situation."