US counter-terror experts are overseeing a lightning operation for setting up mobile sensor towers and electronic fences in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel in a desperate bid to seal their borders off against the fast-moving impetus of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIS, or at least slow it down. This reign of terror is spreading out from Iraq and Syria and creeping into southern Jordan, the Israeli Negev, and Egyptian Sinai, then on to Libya and over to Tunisia and Algeria, covering a distance of 4,000 km.
When President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi saw his army had not repelled the ISIS Sinai affiliate’s offensive in North Sinai as it went into its second week – controlling only the main highway from El Arish to Cairo via Bardawil Lake – he turned to Washington with an urgent request to ship over mobile surveillance sensor towers and American crews to operate them. His plan is to string them across the Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt’s borders with Libya and Sudan in a last-chance bid to block the constant influx of reinforcements and weapons to ISIS fighters reaching Sinai from Libya, through the Egyptian borde,r and from Iraq, through southern Jordan and the Israeli Negev.
The State Department acceded to the Egyptian request and has submitted the application worth $100 million for congressional approval.
The application states: “This procurement is intended for Egyptian Border Guard Forces, which currently lack any remote detection capability along unpatrolled areas of Egypt’s borders.” Libya, Sudan and Sinai are specified. The application goes on to explain: “The system would provide an early warning capability to allow for faster response times to mitigate threats to the border guards and the civilian population.”
debkafile’s counter-terror and intelligence sources disclose that Egypt already has one set of American mobile sensor towers. They were installed on the 193 km long banks of the Suez Canal more than a year ago and have kept ISIS terrorists from reaching those banks and firing missiles at passing ships to block the waterway, like the RPG attack of Sept. 5, 2013.
The sensor towers have proved effective so long as the various terrorist groups, such as ISIS, were deterred from directly attacking American facilities by tactical considerations of their own, such as a preference for those systems rather than a large-scale army forces to police the Suez zone, which would physically impede the convoys carrying men and arms from Libya into Egypt.
The drivers of these convoys stop over at Suez and Port Suez to rest up before carrying on with the long drive to their destinations in Sinai. Scattering the mobile sensor towers in areas unpatrolled by Egyptian troops would expose the American operators to ISIS attacks and abductions. So while solving one problem, they may well generate another. In any case they won’t make the ISIS threat go away.
Whereas Egypt asked for mobile sensors, Tunisia is to have a new, permanent fence with electronic warning stations along its route. Our counter-terror experts point out that, however effective this system is, it can’t promise Tunisia hermetic protection against terrorist encroachment.
ISIS has at least two ways of getting around the fence barrier:
1. Landing by sea. The gunman who massacred 39 tourists on the Soussa beach on June 26 landed from the Mediterranean by speedboat.
2. Circumventing the fence through the meeting point of the Tunisian-Libyan-Algerian borders. That point will not be enclosed. Tunisia may be reached through western Algeria where the border is wide open.
The second electronic fence the United States is providing will run down 30 km of the border between Israel and Jordan from Timna to Eilat. It is a joint project, which has become necessary to curb ISIS movements from southern Jordan through the Israeli Negev and onto Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip.