US: Fighting ISIS-Sinai Is Ineffectual without Holding Operations
A sophisticated multinational communication network that links ISIS operational HQ in Raqqa, Syria with its centers in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, Sirte and Derna in Libya, and Hadramaut in Yemen, has been uncovered by a newly-installed US intelligence eavesdropping application.
This was disclosed to Egyptian President Fattah El-Sisi by US counter terrorism experts during a secret visit to Cairo in the past few days, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal.
For now, the Americans are not disrupting the ISIS communications system because by tapping into it they are harvesting valuable intelligence about the terrorist organization’s operations, movements and plans. At some point, they would like to mount raids to destroy the system at its four points. But this plan may look good on paper, but would be almost impossible to put into practice.
The Egyptian president was meanwhile urged by his American visitors to upgrade his tactics against ISIS. Our sources quote them as commending him for pulling out all the stops for striking terrorist bases and networks in the Sinai Peninsula, with heavy losses and casualties incurred by both sides. But the ISIS presence in Sinai has not been reduced, least of all eradicated, the Americans say, for lack of holding operations.
After wiping out a terrorist location or cell, Egyptian combatants return to base. Because no military manpower remains to hold onto captured terrain, the terrorists quickly reoccupy it with fresh fighters
This leaves Egypt mired in a Sisyphean task with no end in sight insofar as rolling back the terrorist invasion is concerned.
El-Sisi was pressed by the US counterterrorism experts to assign more military strength for setting up military bases in Sinai at every site recovered from ISIS. To illustrate the point, they said, “Look at how we operate in Sirte in Libya, where Western and Libyan forces have been fighting for months, slowly advancing on ISIS forces, but keeping hold of all the territories they reclaim.”
The Egyptian ruler replied that he hears what they say, but needs to think about it.
Our sources doubt that he will take the Americans up on the tactics they are urging on him for combating the Islamist terrorists overrunning Sinai. In fact, in his case, the Libyan analogy was counter-productive.
In the two-month battle for the Islamic State group's Libyan stronghold of Sirte, more than 240 unity government fighters have been killed to date and over 1,400 injured.
This is exactly what the Egyptian president fears. He cannot afford this high scale of war casualties in the present state of his regime.