Smoke rises in Egypt's North Sinai as seen from the border of southern Gaza Strip with Egypt July 1, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The United States informed Egypt and Israel on Tuesday that it would be reviewing its peacekeeping mission in Sinai, where extremist militant groups are growing in strength and number.
The three decade-old Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), the force which has monitored the Sinai since the Camp David Accords, may have an outdated structure, US officials said, explaining the policy move.
“I don’t think anyone’s talking about a withdrawal,” said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson. Roughly 600 US troops are stationed there. “I think we’re just going to look at the number of people we have there and see if there are functions that can be automated or done through remote monitoring.”
A State Department official acknowledged the metastasizing threat to both nations from terrorist organizations in the peninsula, especially Hamas and those affiliated with the Islamic State.
“Timing aside, I think this is more of a comprehensive look at how to restructure the force going forward,” said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesperson.
“We remain fully committed to the MFO mission.”
Toner said the goal of the review is to “make the force there more agile” and to revamp it in a “smart, modernized way.”
Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces sent out a message on Twitter: “The threat of ISIS [Islamic State] in Sinai has increased over the past year. Our navy is prepared.”
Egyptian security efforts in Sinai have suffered major setbacks, including the October 31 downing of a Russian airliner and Friday’s bombing of two armored personnel carriers which killed seven. Islamic State insurgents claimed responsibility for both incidents.
Reuters contributed to this report.