During a visit to Cairo on Tuesday, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry Shelton, said that his country had no intention of withdrawing US troops now serving as peacekeepers in Sinai.
He said after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that part of these forces would be redeployed “one way or another,” in coordination with Egypt and the other parties involved.
Last April, US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his visit to Washington that the Bush administration wanted to withdraw the soldiers from Sinai in a move to reduce troop commitments abroad, reported the New York Times.
Israeli diplomats said Sharon was initially taken aback by the suggestion and briefly argued against it, but said he would agree if a symbolic American presence remained, the report said, citing officials.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that Rumsfeld and Sharon discussed the Sinai peacekeepers when the Israeli leader visited Washington in March.
The unit, known as the Multinational Force and Observers, was set up in 1982 after the Camp David agreement in 1979 that sealed the peace between Egypt and Israel. The force of about 1,900 soldiers from 10 countries includes 865 Americans. It does not operate under the United Nations flag.
Rumsfeld had also discussed the possible withdrawal with Mubarak during his visit to Washington in early April.
Mubarak opposed the move, citing the Israeli and the Palestinian conflict and strained relations between Israel and Egypt, according to the New York Times.
The United States must win the agreement of both Israel and Egypt to withdraw its forces.
Before the presidential election, the Bush campaign said American troops in Sinai were among the US peacekeeping operations that would be reviewed to determine whether they were putting too much strain on the military – Albawaba.com