The Obama administration is considering pulling US troops out of bases in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula due to the growing threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terror organizations, CNN reported Tuesday.
The plan calls for moving some of the 700 US troops and other international forces into southern portions of Sinai, away from the ISIS strongholds.
The US is discussing the possibility with Egypt and Israel, both of which signed a peace treaty in 1979, that the Multinational Force and Observers mission monitors compliance with.
So far, neither Egypt nor Israel has commented publicly on the talks, and any significant changes would have to be approved by all signatories to the peace accord, CNN reported.
Defense officials told CNN that the US believes the threat of terrorist attacks, including from ISIS-affiliated groups, in northern Sinai and on the border with Israel, is only growing.
The officials claim that this move does not consist of a retreat, and that the US is adamant that it can still fulfill its treaty obligations after this move.
They noted improved unmanned remote sensing technology can be used to a greater extent to fulfill the treaty obligations to monitor military movements in Sinai.
“The (Pentagon) supports the role being played by the Multinational Force and Observers in supporting the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt,” Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement. “We are in continuous contact with the MFO and adjust force protection capabilities as conditions warrant.”
Some small, remote observer stations have already been closed, CNN reports.
Four US service members were injured last September in a roadside attack in Sinai believed to have been carried out by an ISIS affiliate there, but it is still unclear if ISIS was targeting Americans.
The Israel-Sinai border has become increasingly tense as terror organizations, including ISIS-affiliated groups, have solidified their presence and created instability in the region.
Since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, there has been an unprecedented growth in terror groups operating from the Sinai. These insurgencies have taken advantage of the chaotic situation that ensued in the area, which led to waves of violence that has spilled over into Israel’s southern border.
Israel has been closely monitoring its border with Egypt and been rearranging its forces to contend with a cross-border attack by ISIS terrorists.
In response to the renewal of terrorist activity from the Sinai Peninsula and the many infiltrations in 2011, the IDF initiated the “Hourglass Project,” and in 2013 completed the construction of a large fence that stretches throughout the Israeli border with the Egyptian Sinai. The fence is equipped with 24-hour surveillance cameras and is patrolled by multiple forces.
IDF forces occasionally train to face various scenarios of ISIS attacks in the area.