US withdrawing troops from Sinai
The Pentagon is scaling down the number of US troops in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula citing a rise in terrorist attacks by Daesh and affiliated groups, a US defense official says, Press TV reported.
According to Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis speaking on Tuesday, 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.
The US has around 700 troops 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."
Sinai Peninsula has been under a state of emergency since October 2014, following a deadly terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 33 soldiers from the Egyptian security forces.
Militants have been carrying out deadly attacks by taking advantage of the turmoil that has gripped Egypt after democratically-elected former president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted by the military in July 2013.
Militants from the Takfiri Velayat Sinai group, previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, mainly targeting the army and police. In November 2014, the group pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, mostly active in Iraq and Syria.