Intel: Congress pushes back against Pentagon plan to withdraw US forces from Egypt’s Sinai

al-monitor An Egyptian military vehicle is seen on the highway in northern Sinai, Egypt, May 25, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih/File Photo.

Jun 11, 2020

Congress is using a key defense bill to push back against Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s reported plans to withdraw US peacekeeping forces from Egypt’s Sinai.

The Senate’s annual defense authorization bill would require Esper “to notify Congress 30 days before reducing the total number of members of the armed forces deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt to fewer than 430 members,” according to a summary of the legislation released today.

Why it matters: The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Esper seeks to draw down troops from the Sinai peacekeeping mission despite opposition from the State Department. The report immediately prompted pushback from Israel, with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz declaring, “The international force in the Sinai is important, and [the] American participation in it is important.” The US-led peacekeeping mission has been deployed in the Sinai since Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt is also battling an insurgency in Sinai led by militias affiliated with the Islamic State. Cairo’s stance on scaling back the peacekeeping mission remains unclear.

What’s next: The House is expected to release its version of the defense bill later this month.

Know more: Al-Monitor examines whether the Islamic State is poised to make a comeback in Sinai.

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