The United States announced it is considering using automated monitoring for its part in the peacekeeping mission in Sinai, reported to be a move that would pull out “hundreds of troops” of its contingent in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).
“There is a modernisation effort or a restructuring effort that is going to take place with regard to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai,” US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in a press briefing in Washington DC on Tuesday.
The new development comes after reports last week that the United States, Egyptian, and Israeli governments have begun official discussions concerning the structure and functionality of the US contingent of the MFO in Sinai, following recent militant attacks in Sinai in past months.
According to official statements, the US secretary of defense Ash Carter has sent letters to Egyptian and Israeli officials about the suggestion to deploy remote surveillance technology in the MFO mission to monitor the area, in compliance with the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
“I think the end goal is to create a force on the ground in the Sinai that is more nimble, more able to carry out its tasks. And again, it’s in no way meant to diminish our commitment to our treaty obligations,” Toner told journalists, refusing to confirm whether this move would mean a reduction of the US contingent’s size.
However, a Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis said earlier on Tuesday: “I think we’re just going to look at the number of people we have there and see if there are functions that can be automated or done through remote monitoring.”
The statement was backed by US officials who said using remote surveillance technology could eventually allow the United States to withdraw hundreds of its roughly 700 peacekeeping troops, Reuters reported.
“Whether and how significant a force reduction that will entail I can’t speak to at this point in time, but what I can say is in no way does it speak to a lessening in our commitment to the objective of the MFO mission,” Toner said.
“It doesn’t in any way signal a plan to withdraw from the Sinai. We are fully committed to the MFO mission and the maintenance of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel,” he added.