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Paul Hair is a national security expert and an author. He writes under his own name and as a ghostwriter. Connect with him at http://www.liberateliberty.com/. Contact him at paul@liberateliberty.com.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Egypt: U.S. Action in Syria Will Affect Egyptian Security and U.S. Forces in Egypt

UPDATE: 09/23/2013: Corrected first paragraph for clarity.

Map Courtesy of The World Factbook
Recent reporting indicates that the U.S. is increasing its support for the forces fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. This in turn will strengthen the Islamic jihadist elements among them. This strengthening will help the jihadists either in their fight against Assad or, if that fight fails, by providing them additional skills and weapons to use in fights in other parts of the world, including Egypt where they already are fighting the Egyptian armed forces, and where al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has already stated he next wants jihadists to concentrate their efforts. Increased violence in Egypt also will affect the security situation of U.S. forces in Egypt serving as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeeping mission.

Jihadists and other factions fighting in Syria against the Assad regime will gain strength now that the U.S. has increased support for them, and now that analysis of the July 2013 Abu Ghraib (Iraq) prison break indicates that the prisoners freed from there are strengthening those jihadists already fighting in Syria.

The recent decision to withhold direct American military action against the Assad regime initially appeared to give Assad a definitive victory. But that might not be the case now that the U.S. has increased its support for those fighting him and might possibly do more as it receives reports that the Assad regime used chemical weapons. Nevertheless, other analysts believe that any chance for defeating Assad has passed.

Regardless of what ultimately occurs in Syria, the increased American aid will significantly help Islamic jihadists. Even if they ultimately fail in their mission to overthrow Assad in Syria, they can continue fighting for the time being and gain valuable fighting experience.

Jihadists will be able to use the fighting experience and weapons they gain in Syria to assist in their war in Egypt where the Egyptian armed forces currently are conducting significant military operations against them. Their fighting experience and weapons will become especially significant if they choose to decrease their focus on Syria and concentrate on Egypt.

Islamic jihadists increasing their efforts in Egypt will affect the security situation in Egypt. And any future deterioration in security in Egypt won’t just affect Egyptians; it also will affect the U.S. troops who are stationed in the Sinai as part of the MFO.

Islamic jihadists have already vowed to attack U.S. troops in the Sinai, and, in fact, have already interfered with the MFO through “blockaded bases and convoys” and a “few instances” of attacks according to an article from The Washington Post in late August.

The Egyptian armed forces currently appear to be doing a competent job of fighting them. However, if jihadists increase their efforts in Egypt (using training and weapons supplied in part by the U.S. via Syria) they could prove to be a formidable foe. Additionally, if jihadists successfully carry out an attack on U.S. forces and inflict casualties, it will force the U.S. government to make a strategic decision on how to respond (which will be complicated due, in part, to the U.S. involvement in the MFO and its relationship with Egypt).

If jihadists successfully attack U.S. forces in Egypt and the U.S. government orders a significant response it will place even more pressure on U.S. resources and armed forces which are now stretched even further due to U.S. involvement in Syria. It will also cause U.S.-Egyptian relations to deteriorate even more.

However, if jihadists successfully attack U.S. forces in Egypt and the U.S. government does nothing in response (similar to how it handled the attack on U.S. forces at Benghazi) it will further embolden terrorists and further weaken the standing of the U.S. in the world.

Watch for fighting in Egypt to become more prominent now that the Egyptian armed forces are increasing operations in the Sinai and now that the increased aid that the U.S. is providing to anti-Assad forces in Syria will be used to help jihadists in Egypt.

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