Sisi Appeals to US for Help, His Back to the Wall against ISIS
Egypt’s President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi and his top generals have been forced to conclude that they are losing the war against the Islamic State’s forces in Sinai, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report.
Unless they are crushed in the rugged peninsula, the jihadists threaten to descend on Egypt proper – hence Cairo’s desperate appeal for help from Washington.
The French Le Monde newspaper put it in a nutshell. Egyptian forces are no longer capable of stopping the military attacks on their own.
Two days after Egyptian troops and police were hammered by the ISIS arm in Sinai on March 19 and 20, losing 28 men, President El-Sisi called an emergency meeting of high-ranking security officials, police chiefs and senior military commanders. According to a statement from the presidential office, plans for the army and police to locate and destroy terrorist hideouts were discussed.
There must be "complete coordination between the army and police in the fight against terrorism,” he said, adding that “such operations [like the recent attacks in the Sinai] only serve to make Egyptians more determined to fight terrorism and extremism.”
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism report that this brave face was an attempt to disguise the harsh reality of a dramatic escalation of the ISIS threat to the Egyptian regime. The terrorists are currently reported preparing to shift a large part of their forces into mainland Egypt and step up their assaults on the government, especially in the Cairo region.
Only three months ago, talks were underway in Washington, Rome, Paris, London and Cairo for a combined Western-Arab campaign to root out Islamic State bases in eastern and central Libya )as DEBKA Weekly 692 reported on Jan. 1: US Ground Troops for Obama’s New Anti-ISIS Front in Libya).
This plan has melted away.
In the second half of March, not a single Western country is willing to put up the forces for a large-scale military operation in Libya.
And so the jihadists face no substantial military threat in Libya, even less than they do in Syria and Iraq.
Their operational capabilities are scarcely dented by the sparse US air strikes or the loss of a few logistical operatives in drone or covert forces raids, whereas the absence of a major attack on their Libyan strongholds allows the Islamic State to build up its Sinai affiliate.
More weapons and cash are being smuggled in from Libya to Sinai, encouraging the local Bedouin tribesmen, who are familiar with every rock and cranny of the peninsula, to throw in their lot with the jihadis. Out of an estimated population of 130,000-150,000, the Sinai tribes are ready to contribute 15,000-20,000 armed men to fight the El-Sisi regime.
With his back to the wall, the Egyptian president sees no way out but an all-out effort to wipe out the ISIS mountain strongholds in Sinai. After that, the Bedouin would be more or less neutralized.
As a last resort, therefore, before he called his emergency meeting, El-Sisi shot off an urgent message to the White House through intelligence back-channels, asking the US to launch drone strikes for destroying the hidden Islamic State lairs in central Sinai.
Cairo had still not received a reply from Washington by the time this issue of DEBKA Weekly was published.