Sitting Ducks? ISIS threatens American troops in Egypt's Sinai

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 3:07 AM

The State Dept said Wednesday the U. S. troops won't be withdrawn from Sinai. “We stay fully committed to our multinational force and observers mission,” said State Dept spokesman Label Toner.

Sitting Ducks? ISIS threatens American troops in Egypt's Sinai

Concerned that hundreds of American forces based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are assailable to attack by a nearby Islamic State affiliate, top administration executive are worried about their safety and what to do next.

The State Dept said Wednesday the U. S. troops won't be withdrawn from Sinai.

“We stay fully committed to our multinational force and observers mission,” said State Dept spokesman Label Toner. “So number modify in policy, number modify in our force structure.”

But troop safety has U. S. military leaders weighing what to do next.

More than 1.600 international forces occupy outposts in the Sinai, including seven hundred mostly U. S. Army National Guard troops. But these forces are unable to carry out offensive operations against ISIS-affiliated groups such as Wilayat Sinai since they're bound by an agreement made months after the one thousand nine hundred seventy-eight Camp David accord, which made peace between Egypt and Israel.

At the Pentagon Wednesday, a senior U. S. military boss said discussions at the “highest levels” were taking space among the U. S., Israeli and Egyptian governments about the future size of the U. S. commitment to Sinai.

“My focus is making sure that they've the force protection measures in space and we've increased the force protection measures,” said Rear Adm. Andy Lewis, Joint Staff vice director for operations, in a briefing with reporters.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tag Milley, the Army’s top officer, visited the force in December, accompanied by Fox News, shortly after four U. S. soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

In early September, the Pentagon added seventy-five more troops, as well as extra armored vehicles including four Bradley Fighting Vehicles, after another ISIS attack injured two peacekeepers from Fiji. Their base is typically hit by incoming fire once a day.

As portion of the routine harassment attacks, mostly from tiny arms fire, ISIS-aligned forces sometimes launch mortars without warheads to land interior the camp in order to send a message, one official told Fox News.

“The threat is increasing,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

The warning signs have been mounting.

In November, a grouping claiming allegiance to ISIS said it downed the Russian airliner that crashed over Sinai, killing all two hundred twenty-four people on board.

In December, the Center E Institute'south Geoffrey Aronson got the Pentagon'south attention when he wrote in an article: "Sinai is ground zero in the ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government led by ISIS."

Another foreign policy expert said it's unlikely the United States will be able to modify its treaty agreements regarding the international force.

“The Israelis and Egyptians don't wish them to [draw out], they don't wish to show up to be giving into ISIS,” said Paul Salem, of the Washington-based Center E Institute, in an interview with Fox News. “They're pushing the Americans tough not to … redeploy.”

Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced pushback when he tried to draw the U. S. troops out over a decade ago. Israel and Egypt have resisted calls for American troops to withdraw, leaving the Pentagon and the White House with a dilemma considering seven hundred U. S. troops are presently positioned in the center of an increasingly dangerous region.

“Almost everything has changed in the latest few years,” Salem said. “Now there'south a full-on battle between ISIS and the Egyptian army.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Dept producer for Fox News Channel. You can chase him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can chase her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

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