Trump and Sisi
Trump and Sisi Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authorized the release of $1.2 billion in US military assistance to Egypt, The Associated Press reports.

The State Department said Friday it is notifying Congress that Pompeo has signed national security waivers allowing the money known as foreign military financing, or FMF, to be spent.

Congress now has 15 days to weigh in on the waivers, which were signed on August 21 but not previously made public, noted AP. It was not immediately clear why there was a delay in the notification.

The money includes $1 billion for the current 2018 budget year and $195 million appropriated for 2017 that would have had to have been returned to the Treasury had it not been spent by September 30.

US-Egypt ties were strained under the Obama administration, which suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Obama released the aid two years later.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, however, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi praised Trump and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.

Despite the warming of ties, the US last year decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million due Egypt’s failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.

In July, Pompeo lifted a hold on the $195 million. The department said Friday the Trump administration still had "serious concerns about the human rights situation in Egypt" and would continue to raise those concerns with senior Egyptian officials.

"At the same time," it said, "strengthened security cooperation with Egypt is important to US national security. Secretary Pompeo determined that continuing with the obligation and expenditure of these FMF funds is important to strengthening our security cooperation with Egypt."

Independent monitoring groups have documented continued human rights abuses in Egypt over the past year and one such organization, Human Rights First, condemned Friday's announcement.

"Sending more military aid is just doubling down on July's terrible decision," it said. "This is a clear signal that the Trump Administration is more than okay with President Sisi's targeting of human rights defenders. Green lights don't come much bigger than this."