Report: US Troops at Risk from Terror, Kidnapping in Sinai
US intelligence services have attained information regarding plans devised by terror groups to kidnap American soldiers deployed in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeeping squad in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a report by Haaretz.
Details about these plans have been relayed in recent discussions between US and Israeli officials.
American concerns derive partly from security conditions on the MFO bases; US soldiers are stationed on two bases in the Sinai Peninsula which, US intelligence officials fear, are not sufficiently fortified against terrorist infiltration, said the paper.
US strategists, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, are wary about a process whereby US soldiers overseas become targets of terror attacks which are designed to entangle America in local disputes which have no direct bearing upon US interests.
Israel has given a green light to officials who have been participating in strategic talks with American counterparts to discuss the Pentagon's request to reduce the numbers of US soldiers in the MFO, said Haaretz.
The US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last month that the Bush administration wants to reduce American peacekeeping troops stationed in the Sinai Peninsula as part of a reassessment of US involvement in the Middle East.
Sharon did not anticipate that the idea would be mentioned during his visit to Washington and gave no immediate response, the aide, Ra'anan Gissin, told The Associated Press.
Gissin Rumsfeld proposed the reduction of forces to Sharon during their meeting in March.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Israel places great importance on the peacekeeping force, as well as on cooperation with Egypt and the United States.
The peacekeeping unit, the Multinational Force and Observers, was set up in 1982 after Israel withdrew from the Sinai as part of a peace agreement with Egypt.
The force has 1,900 soldiers from 10 countries, including 865 Americans.
In early April, Rumsfeld also discussed the possible withdrawal with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Mubarak opposed the move, citing the Israeli and the Palestinian conflict and strained relations between Israel and Egypt.
The Times report said both Israel and Egypt would give their answers to the US administration next month – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)