WASHINGTON – The United States should maintain its close ties to the Egyptian military despite the unfolding political turmoil within the Middle Eastern nation, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said Wednesday.
"For right now we should continue the aid and continue our support," Boozman said in a telephone interview.
Boozman traveled last week to Afghanistan, Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from office amid growing unrest.
Egypt receives more than $1 billion annually in U.S. assistance that primarily goes to its military. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who also traveled to the region last week, said on CBS’s "Face the Nation" on Sunday that foreign aid to Egypt should be suspended.
"Reluctantly, I believe that we have to suspend aid until such times as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election," McCain said.
The Arizona senator also criticized the Obama administration for a "lack of American leadership and influence" in the region that, he said, is demonstrated by the unrest in Egypt.
Boozman had no similar criticism Wednesday, noting that there "are no good answers" for the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. He also offered strong support for U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, a career diplomat and native of Fort Smith.
"Anne Patterson, I think, is doing a tremendous job. She has served in some of the most difficult circumstances and really is the go-to person in these situations," he said. "Her name did come up everywhere we went in relation to the good job she is doing."
Boozman traveled as part of a Senate delegation that included Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb.
Aside from meetings and briefings with officials, they also spent some time with American troops stationed in the region. They concluded the trip at a military hospital in Germany visiting wounded soldiers.
Boozman met more than a dozen Arkansans serving in Turkey, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.
"I gave them a pat on the back and told them how much the people of Arkansas respected them being there," he said.
At Al Dhafra Air Force Base in the United Arab Emirates, Boozman met up with Capt. Dan Hendren, whom he had recommended years earlier for the Air Force Academy. Hendren grew up in Gravette and is the son of state Sen. Jim Hendren.
"It was amazing. He was a very young man going off to the Academy and now he is flying a fighter in Abu Dhabi," Boozman said.