US Considers Withdrawing Troops from Sinai

International Peacekeepers Sinai

Memorial to fallen peacekeepers at North Camp in the Sinai. (James “Doc” Crabtree/Wikipedia)

The US, concerned about the safety of its peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula in the face of growing Islamic terrorism, is considering a withdrawal.

By: Lauren Calin, World Israel News

The future of US peacekeeping forces in the Sinai Peninsula is being reconsidered by the Obama administration, government officials indicated. The increasing activity of Islamic terrorists, including an ISIS affiliate, poses a risk to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), who are charged with monitoring compliance with the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. An inter-agency review is underway to discuss ways to protect the approximately 700 US soldiers stationed in the Sinai.

ISIS-affiliate bombing

An Egyptian police station bombed by Sinai Peninsula. (AP Photo/Muhamed Sabry)

“The US is concerned over deteriorating security conditions in an area of northeastern Sinai where Egyptian security forces as well as civilian and military elements of the MFO, including the US military forces stationed at the MFO North Camp, are exposed to potential risk,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told the Associated Press.

Under the 1979 Camp David Accords, the US is required to maintain two military units in the Sinai at all times. These may be withdrawn temporarily in the event of an imminent threat. Anonymous officials told AP that the US does not consider Sinai terrorists to pose an imminent threat, although that could change. The MFO has only light weaponry and is not equipped for counter-insurgency operations.

The security situation in the Sinai deteriorated rapidly following the 2013 ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president, Mohammed Morsi. Terrorists have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police officers in a series of ambushes and bombings.

Israel has generally been supportive of Egyptian military operations in the area. The MFO was tasked, among other responsibilities, with ensuring that Egypt is not stationing a greater number of soldiers in the Sinai than stipulated in the peace treaty. However, Israel has giving Egypt its blessing to carry out intensive campaigns against the terrorists, which Israel considers to be a greater threat than the Egyptian Army.