Congress is using a key defense bill to push back against Defense Secretary Mark Esperâ€™s reported plans to withdraw US peacekeeping forces from Egyptâ€™s Sinai.
The Senateâ€™s annual defense authorization bill would require Esper â€œto notify Congress 30 days before reducing the total number of members of the armed forces deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt to fewer than 430 members,â€ according to a summary of the legislation released today.
Why it matters: The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Esper seeks to draw down troops from the Sinai peacekeeping mission despite opposition from the State Department. The report immediately prompted pushback from Israel, with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz declaring,Â â€œThe international force in the Sinai is important, and [the] American participation in it is important.â€ The US-led peacekeeping mission has been deployed in the Sinai since Egyptâ€™s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Egypt is also battling an insurgency in Sinai led by militias affiliated with the Islamic State. Cairoâ€™s stance on scaling back the peacekeeping mission remains unclear.
Whatâ€™s next: The House is expected to release its version of the defense bill later this month.
Know more: Al-Monitor examines whether the Islamic State is poised to make a comeback in Sinai.