News Analysis: Egypt keen on joint military drills, aiming to diversify strategic relations

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by Marwa Yahya

CAIRO, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Egyptian Armed Forces conducted 41 joint military exercises in 2021 with countries in the region and beyond. With broad areas of focus, Egypt signaled a willingness to diversify strategic relations and showcase its prowess, security experts said.

"Some 29 joint exercises took place within national borders, and 12 others overseas," Gharib Hafez, spokesperson of the Egyptian armed forces said in a recent statement.

The drills, doubling from the previous year's 20 exercises, were launched with neighboring countries, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and other major military powers such as the United States, France, Russia and India.

"Egypt is one of the world's few countries that are keen on conducting various joint military drills," as part of its efforts to diversify its foreign strategic relationships, said Samir Farag, an Egyptian military expert at Nasser Military Academy.

The drills, covered naval and air defense exercises, and anti-terror operations in the region, "showcased Egypt's ability in maintaining strategic deterrence and its weapons systems," said Farag.

"Via the intensive maritime exercises, Egypt is signaling its ability and determination to protect offshore gas fields and future pipelines to Europe as part of its plan to be an energy regional hub," Farag added.

He explained that the Egyptian armed forces have acquired experience in anti-terrorism and migration management, and have built large military infrastructure such as the Mohamed Naguib base in the Mediterranean province of Matrouh.

The Berenice naval base on the Red Sea coast, inaugurated in January 2020, demonstrated the country's ability to protect maritime shipping routes through the Suez Canal, he pointed out.

Global Firepower, a website that tracks defense data of 140 countries, ranked Egypt at 12 in its 2022 Military Strength Ranking.

Egypt also conducted joint training exercises to gain experience from their foreign counterparts, experts noted.

In 2021, Egypt hosted five maritime drills with the United States, three drills with Spain, two with Russia, another two with India, two with Greece, one with Italy, and one with Sudan, the Egyptian military said in an earlier statement.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian and French armed forces conducted 10 drills in Egypt, including five air force exercises and four maritime drills in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, according to the statement.

Egypt also hosted a multinational military exercise dubbed "Bright Star 2021" at Mohamed Naguib base, with the participation of 21 countries.

"The drills in 2021 were more advanced in terms of training programs with more interactive exercises to counter threats and risks," Farag added.

Samir Raghib, a retired army general, said taking part in joint drills abroad is "an advantage to get trained in different battling theaters," referring to the Egyptian army's first-ever overseas naval drill with the Russian counterpart in the Black Sea in 2021.

According to Raghib, now chairman of the Arab Institute for Development and Strategic Studies, military cooperation bears the importance of "defending national security."

He stressed that foreign military forces were glad to carry out joint exercises in Egyptian military bases because new weapons and equipment including fighter jets have been equipped to Egyptian armed services, making them prepared for an array of training and comprehensive maneuvers. Enditem

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