By Barbara Starr
Looking to increase security in the Sinai Peninsula, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is offering Egypt a package of classified intelligence-sharing capabilities designed to help it identify military threats in the area and reassure Israel that Egypt can deal with rising militancy along Israel's border, according to a senior Pentagon official.
At the core, is an offer to supply Egypt's military in Sinai with truck-mounted sensors that provide an electronic signal identifying which nation is operating the vehicle. This technology, commonly known as "blue force tracker," has been widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify vehicles at great distances. It is also possible a commercial version of the technology will be offered to the international peacekeeping force in Sinai that includes 700 U.S. troops.
The international force is not authorized to fight extremists, but is facing the potential of increased violence in the region. The official emphasized that nothing has been decided yet, and noted any change in the international peacekeeping force must be agreed to by all nations.
At the same time, the United States is also offering Egypt increased intelligence sharing, including satellite imagery and drone flights and intercepts of cell phone and other communications among militants suspected of planning attacks, according to an Obama administration official.
The package was discussed by Panetta during his recent trips to Egypt and Israel. The administration official emphasized that the offer is aimed strongly at helping Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy improve security in Sinai, but also to reassure Israel.
Earlier this month, more than a dozen Egyptian soldiers were killed near the Israeli border when gunmen attacked a post and tried to enter Israel, just one of the latest incidents in a growing trend of violence.