For Trump and El-Sisi, Counterterrorism Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi meets his counterpart and admirer Donald Trump in Washington Monday for a "reboot" of relations following years of tension with the American president's predecessor.

"I just want to say to you, Mr President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States, and in me", Trump said.

Ahead of the visit, a United States official said Mr Sisi would find a White House ready to soften USA criticism of Egypt on human rights and to work on counter-terrorism, but unwilling to provide additional aid to the most populous Arab nation. He's done a fantastic job in at very hard situation.

In 2013, el-Sisi - as head of the Egyptian armed forces - lead the overthrow of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, after mass protests against his rule.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: In his first visit to the White House, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was eager to show that he's building up close ties to President Trump.

Trump said he and el-Sisi meant to work together to fight Islamist militants.

El-Sissi is hardly cut from Trump cloth: he is a somewhat taciturn career military man, while his host is a brash real estate developer and reality TV star who inherited a fortune, yet their instincts and language seem strikingly similar.

Obama never invited the Egyptian leader to the White House and Egypt's government was repeatedly admonished over its human rights record.

The two met in September at Trump's offices in NY.

El-Sissi noted that he's had a deep appreciation for Trump's "unique personality" and vowed to work with the U.S. to eradicate the "evil ideology" that is "terrorising communities". El-Sissi frequently claims Egypt is winning its continuing war on terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula and has urged people to not "listen to anybody's words but me".

The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board. Since stepping into office, el-Sisi jailed some 40,000 political prisoners including thousands of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, shut down civil society organizations, and clamped down on the media.

Seeking to rejuvenate relations with one of the U.S.' most pivotal Middle Eastern allies, President Donald Trump on Monday told his Egyptian counterpart that US support for his country is unwavering.

"We have many things in common", Trump declared.

Rights groups have called for the release of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American who works with street children and was arrested in May 2014 on human trafficking charges. He did not mention anything about US military aid to Egypt, which stands at about $1.3 billion annually.

Egypt is part of the worldwide coalition against ISIS, but is bogged down fighting the jihadists' franchise in the Sinai Peninsula, where they have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

  • Julie Sanders