Facing Islamic State, Pentagon to send infantrymen and surgical teams to Sinai

By Dan Lamothe

September 10, 2015

The Pentagon will boost the number of troops it deploys to Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, sending a light infantry platoon, surgical teams, and others as it faces an increasing Islamic State militant threat there.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook disclosed the plan Thursday, saying about 75 more U.S. service members will deploy. The plan will increase the number of U.S. troops there to more than 700, and comes following two Sept. 4 attacks on the northern part of the peninsula that wounded four soldiers from the United States and two from Fiji with improvised explosive devices. [1]

The Defense Department was considering altering the U.S. military presence on the Sinai Peninsula before the attacks, in light of the increase in attacks there this year by the Islamic State. Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed in a few of them.

"Some of these things were moving into place literally about the same time that this IED incident occurred," Cook said. "We didn't want to disclose all of that at the time and we still don't want to disclose all the security precautions that are being taken for understandable reasons. We had security concerns; we're moving to respond to them."

The additional troops will join the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), an international coalition set up to keep the peace between Egypt and Israel after a peace agreement was reached between the two nations at Camp David, Md., in the 1970s. The U.S. unit involved is called Task Force Sinai, and currently comprises soldiers primarily with the Texas National Guard.

Security on the Sinai has deteriorated especially in its northern reaches, which is home to MFO North Camp, a base about 10 miles west of the Egypt's eastern border with Israel. The force has traditionally been lightly armed.

The IED attacks on  Sept. 4 occurred about 2 p.m., with two Fijian soldiers wounded after an IED exploded near their vehicle. A force of U.S. troops responded to help, and was injured in separate blast nearby. They were evacuated to a hospital in Israel, and expected to be released shortly afterward.