U.S. Sinai peacekeepers retreat to safety after ISIL attacks

Special to WorldTribune.com

The United States has relocated more than 100 soldiers in Egypt after multiple attacks on their Sinai camp by jihadists affiliated with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

The Pentagon said the troops, part of the Multinational Force of Observers (MFO), were transferred about 300 miles south to a more secure area.

U.S. soldiers and airmen load a UH-60 Black Hawk into an Air Force C17 Globemaster in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt in 2014. The airstrip is now used by the Multinational Force and Observers stationed in Sinai Egypt. /Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval/Air Force
U.S. soldiers and airmen load a UH-60 Black Hawk into an Air Force C17 Globemaster in the Sinai Peninsula. The airstrip is used by the Multinational Force and Observers. /Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval/Air Force

The American troops, part of 1,680 MFO members from a dozen countries, have increasingly been targeted by Sinai Province, ISIL’s Egyptian affiliate. As peacekeepers, the U.S. soldiers are not authorized to fire at the jihadists. Only Egyptian security forces have that authority.

Four U.S. troops were injured in September when their convoy hit two roadside bombs. Several weeks earlier, an American soldier was shot in the arm when gunmen targeted the MFO camp, near the northern Sinai village of Al-Joura.

The Pentagon responded by sending 75 more troops plus counter-mortar radars and new communications equipment.

The recent attacks on the MFO troops was among the topics that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed in a closed-door meeting with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi on April 23 in Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter formally notified Israel and Egypt earlier this month that the U.S. is reviewing its role in the MFO force. U.S. defense officials say the review involves reducing the number of U.S. troops, not a full withdrawal.

Any major change in the peacekeeping force must be approved by all signatories to the accord, which followed the wars between Egypt and Israel and in 1967 and 1973.