General Michael E. Kurilla (Photo courtesy of the US Department of Defense website)
Prior to being appointed to the position in April 2022, Kurilla, 56, served as CENTCOM’s chief of staff and as commander of the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps.
CENTCOM is responsible for managing US military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, including coordinating activities with allies and partners.
Kurilla expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s regional leadership, saying "Egypt has long served a critical role in stability across the region, and CENTCOM is committed to this strategic relationship. The US and Egypt have had for decades military-to-military cooperation. For 30 years, the US has helped Egypt train and equip a large, modern, and powerful military that contributes to both Egyptian security and regional stability."
"Egypt played a critical role fighting terrorism with the United States since 9/11. I think the American military partnership with Egypt reaps a rich harvest for both our countries and for the region, and it will continue to do so in the future. I think the relationship remains very strong and remains important for regional security and stability," he added.
Kurilla also spoke about his close relationship with top Egyptian military figures, mentioning his visit to Cairo three months ago where he met with Minister of Defence General Mohamed Zaki and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Osama Askar.
“I speak with General Askar by phone frequently… and we have important discussions about border security, opportunities to enhance partner training for counterterrorism operations and opportunities to strengthen the US-Egypt military partnership.”
“The key is that trusting partnerships allow for candid and tough conversations, and that is the kind of relationship we have with Egypt. We do not agree on every subject, but we do not have to. We have to have candid discussions about every subject, and we work through the challenges to strengthen this enduring strategic relationship."
Speaking about Egypt’s role in maintaining regional stability, Kurilla noted that Egypt played a “critical role” in de-escalating the recent conflicts between Israel and Palestinian factions.
He also welcomed Egypt’s recent assumption of command of the multinational Combined Task Force 153, charged with maintaining security in the Red Sea, Bab El-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden.
It is the first time Egypt had assumed command of a maritime task force since joining the 34-member coalition in 2021, he said.
“Egypt is very important. It is important to the region. It is important to the world.”
Kurilla also affirmed that the Islamic State group remains a persistent threat to the region.
"[The Islamic State group] is still a threat out there. We have taken away the territorial areas, but the ideology remains unconstrained and uncontained.”
In response to a question about whether a Turkish incursion into Kurdish-held areas in Syria would affect US efforts against the group, Kurilla said he was very concerned about the possibility, especially the risk that security would be compromised at prisons.
“They have about 28 prisons across northern Syria. [An attack] could cause [the Kurds to reduce security at the prisons]. In January of last year, there was a breakout of almost 4,000 ISIS detainees from one of the prisons. It also can put at risk the security down at the Al-Hol [refugee camp]. So anything we can do to de-escalate the situation and prevent that incursion by the Turks would be important. "