“The decision was made after the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter began “formal communications” with Egypt and Israel notifying them about the US review of its military mission as to the hundreds of troops currently operating in the North African country’s volatile Sinai Peninsula and the growing threat from terrorist groups” Captain Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman Navy said.
Around 700 US troops are currently stationed there as part of a United Nations operation established after Egypt and Israel signed a 1979 peace treaty and agreed for a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission to monitor compliance.
Davis said the Pentagon remains “fully committed” to the MFO mission but wants to use drones and other high-tech tools rather than American personnel on the ground to assume some of the riskier work.
“I don’t think anyone is talking about a full-scale withdraw. I think we are just looking at the number of people we have there to see if there are functions we can automate,” He added. “We know that ISIL is active in the Sinai… It’s a situation there that has risks, and we want to make sure we’re addressing those risks appropriately.”
Meanwhile, Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, called the U.S. review “part of an ongoing effort … to look at how to modernize” the observer mission by using technology or improving efficiency.
“Whether and how significant a force reduction that will entail I can’t speak to at this point in time,” Toner said. But he added: “In no way does it speak to a lessening in our commitment to the objective of the MFO mission.”