U.S. Intends to Reduce Sinai Force
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2002 The United States intends to cut the number of U.S. soldiers serving with the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, said Douglas Feith, defense undersecretary for policy.
The announcement followed an Aug. 1 meeting here of the United States, Egypt and Israel. The three parties discussed the reconfiguration of the MFO and a requirement that the United States has to reduce its participation in the MFO.
"We're not talking about ending U.S. participation in the mission," Feith said. "We're talking about looking at the whole MFO, how it can reconfigure itself, how it can continue to fulfill its mission more efficiently."
Feith said even before the global war on terrorism, the United States sought to cut the number of U.S. troops serving in such activities.
The three parties agreed to hold further expert-level talks to determine how to best configure the MFO.
The MFO grew of the Camp David Accords signed by Egypt and Israel in 1979. Part of the pact called on the United States and other nations to provide troops for the MFO. It is based in the Sinai. The first U.S. troops to serve in the area, in 1981, were from the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Currently about 850 U.S. soldiers serve in the MFO; most are from the Oregon National Guard.
Soldiers serve six-month deployments in the area.
In a joint statement, Egypt and Israel expressed appreciation for the role of the U.S. Army in the MFO. Both said they understood the need to reduce U.S. participation in the MFO due to the needs of the global war on terrorism.
Feith said the United States is not withdrawing from the organization nor does the troop cut mean a reduction in the U.S. commitment to peace in the region.
"Our thought is that there will be discussions among the United States, Egypt, Israel and the MFO leadership on what the missions are, how the United States can reconfigure its participation," he said.
Feith said he could not say when reduction would be effective. "It's an on-going discussion with the parties," he said.