The United States is beefing up protection for its peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai by deploying at least 75 additional troops and military equipment to the region in the wake of a roadside bomb attack last week that injured American troops, according to U.S. defense officials.
Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed to the The Associated Press (AP) that “at least 75 additional troops are being deployed, including a light-infantry platoon and a surgical team, as well as surveillance equipment and other assets designed to beef up the peacekeepers’ self-protection.”
“They said plans for additional security measures were in the works before last week’s attack, reflecting growing U.S. concern about security for U.S. members of what is formally known as the Multinational Force and Observers [MFO].”
Four American service members and two Fijians with the peacekeeping force were reportedly wounded last Thursday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb during a routine patrol near their base in the town of el-Gorah.
Last week, AP reported that the estimated 720 U.S. soldiers in the Sinai were ill-equipped and lacked the capacity to fight jihadists in the area, including members of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
U.S. Army Maj. Roger Cabiness II, a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman, confirmed to Breitbart News at the time that the U.S. military was planning to take additional measures to ensure the protection of its lightly equipped force in the Sinai Peninsula “in light of the security situation in parts of Northeastern Sinai.”
The American soldiers are in Sinai as part of the MFO that ensures compliance with the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel.
“Egypt has been battling a long-running insurgency in the region that has grown since the 2011 popular uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. After the army overthrew his successor, Mohammed Morsi, in July 2013, attacks surged,” reports AP. “A local jihadi group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group last year, renaming itself Sinai Province and killing scores of soldiers.”
Last month, AP learned from senior members of the Obama administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that the U.S. had been “quietly” conducting an “inter-agency review” of the U.S. posture in the Sinai Peninsula, “fearful the lightly equipped peacekeepers could be targets of escalating Islamic State-inspired violence.”
The options that were being considered by the Obama administration at the time were bolstering protection for U.S. troops or withdrawing them altogether.
“We are concerned over security conditions in that area of the northeastern Sinai where Egyptian security forces as well as civilian and military elements of the MFO, including U.S. military forces stationed at the MFO north camp, are exposed to potential risk,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters on Tuesday, reiterating that the Obama administration supports the peacekeeping force in Sinai.
“And in light of the security situation there, we are, again, considering additional measures to bolster their protection going forward, taking steps to try and enhance their protection,” he aded.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been cracking down on jihadists in his country.
Nevertheless, some news reports suggest ISIS has continued to make advances in Egypt, launching a growing number of attacks in the restive Sinai region.