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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How long before American and multinational soldiers are attacked in the Sinai?

Last year, the Multinational Force (MFO) that is in the Sinai to help support the Israel/Egypt peace agreement was attacked by Islamists, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. From their annual report:

Tension has progressively risen in the Sinai, and last March the MFO’s North Camp was cut off from road access for eight days by demonstrators; the demonstration was peaceful but very disruptive of normal operations and financially costly to the MFO.
In late April and early May, armed elements blocked all MFO movements – including resupply of two remote sites – in one area of the northeastern Sinai. In the course of this blockade, one MFO vehicle and its personnel were subject to gunfire and other vehicles and personnel were unable to exercise freedom of movement.

[I]n September, the MFO itself was a target: on 14 September 2012, a violent crowd gathered outside the MFO’s North Camp and, amid smoke from burning tires and thrown Molotov cocktails, broke through the perimeter defenses and entered the camp. Armed elements fired upon and ultimately destroyed a ballistically protected guard tower and threw an explosive device. The attackers caused significant damage, including burning an MFO fire truck on the scene. Fortunately, there was no loss of life or serious injury; however, eight MFO personnel suffered minor injuries. Colombian perimeter guards and the quick reaction forces that joined them contained the protestors and compelled them to exit the camp. Egyptian military personnel then dispersed the crowd and have remained outside North Camp to assist in maintaining security.
The report goes on to say that the forces are essentially dependent on the Egyptian army to secure themselves (with much effusive thanks, as well as props to the IDF.) But having a force that cannot protect itself seems a bit counterproductive.

400 US soldiers are going to the MFO this summer, and training to protect themselves:
More than 400 soldiers are training to deploy to the Sinai Peninsula this summer as part of a peacekeeping force between Egypt and Israel.

During their nine-month deployment, soldiers in the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will support the Multinational Force and Observers, which was established in 1981.

While there, soldiers will man posts and checkpoints along the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where they will observe and report violations of the Camp David Peace Accords, which were signed in 1979 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli President Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter.

When the squadron deploys this summer, it will replace the North Carolina National Guard, which has been stationed in the region since December.

Previously, the U.S. has deployed reserve component forces from the National Guard to support the peacekeeping efforts along the Egyptian-Israeli border. However, after an $18 billion shortfall in the fiscal year 2013 budget — partly due to sequestration — the U.S. will start deploying active-duty Army units to support the task force in Sinai, said Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry, an Army spokesperson.

Soldiers in the squadron have been training for their new mission along the Israeli-Egyptian border for more than six months at Fort Hood and during a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

“We always try to make sure they’re trained up for anything they could possibly face,” said Maj. Steven McGunegle, squadron operations officer. “We try to make sure they have all the skills to be successful.”

Last week, soldiers conducted riot control exercises, which focused on how to respond to nonlethal forces. During training, soldiers learned how react to an unarmed but dangerous civilian population without using lethal capabilities.

“The nonlethal training is just to make us better and be all around prepared for any situation that arises,” Pintado said. “It’s not expected, but it gives us the flexibility as a unit to be better prepared.”

Soldiers previously received training on cultural awareness and how to work with the Egyptian government and bedouins.

“We’ve learned that in other cultures, people approach things differently and to be cautious of religion and different people’s roles in society,” Pfc. Alexander Perez said. “We don’t want to offend anyone; that’s unnecessary. So we’re going through training constantly to understand how their culture works.”
To the Islamists, every American in the Sinai has a bullseye on him, as they regard it as an unacceptable violation of Islamic rule.

(h/t Irene)