Over the last week you have been bombarded with reporting of what seems to be the invincibility of the so called Islamic State fighters and their success in the Egyptian Sinai.
No doubt the coordinated terrorist attack in the Sinai on July 1 was a well-prepared battle plan. No doubt the nature of multiple simultaneous attacks and the element of surprise resulted in casualties among Egyptian officers and soldiers exaggerated by the Islamic State media blitz.
But here is the rest of the story: It was not as one-sided as we have come to learn. The Egyptian Armed Forces, despite initially getting caught flat-footed, repelled these attacks and inflicted heavy casualties on Islamic State attackers.
Photo credit: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images.
The strategic objective of the Sinai attacks was to allow the Islamic State to claim a significant victory announcing its control over the Sinai province.
What the Islamic State did not expect was the determination, sense of nationalism and experience of the Egyptian military. Unlike other regional military forces, the Egyptian military not only blunted these attacks but responded with overwhelming force. Unlike other regional military forces, the Egyptian military has no ethnic or religious divides hindering its rank and file from defending what they believe in their hearts and minds a well defined nation state that has its roots within borders established for thousands of years. At a particular security checkpoint manned by only 17 ranking officers and one young junior-grade officer, the outpost was successfully defended against an onslaught of Islamic State attackers in an intense firefight. Using classic tactics, these insurgent attacks were led by suicide vehicles.
At the Sedrat Abu El Hgaga oupost, an Islamic State suicide bomber was met by an equally determined Egyptian soldier who shoved his weapon into the vehicle and fired on the suicide bomber blowing him self up with the suicide bomber and denying access into the checkpoint.
The ensuing battles raged with assault rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenade, mortars and fighting in such close proximities that many hand grenades exchanged from both sides. At one point during the battle, Egyptian soldiers were crawling to get dead Islamic State fighters' weapons and ammunition, which they used to defend the outpost when they ran low on their own.
Egypt has been confronted with a well organized radical Islamic hybrid terrorist organization in the Sinai like what we have seen before in Syria and Iraq. These radical Islamic terrorist groups not only were spawned from the Muslim Brotherhood leadership as well as its rank and file, but this cult had infiltrated many levels of government during the one year that the Muslim Brotherhood had control of Egypt and its government apparatus.
Islamic State fighters march in Raqqa, Syria, last year. (Image source: AP/Militant Website, File)
This problem was further compounded under President Mohamad Morsi, the radical Muslim Brotherhood leader, who basically gave carte blanche to terror groups to operate with impunity in the Sinai. He also used presidential powers to block any attempt by the Egyptian military to stem the flow of arms, ammunition and radical fighters into the Sinai.
The challenge here is that the Egyptian military is organized along classic traditional lines to fight another standing military force. This was clearly demonstrated during the latest attack and the subsequent counter attack by Egyptian ground and air forces. However, they clearly can use the latest technology, intelligence, and the special forces training to fight an insurgent force operating in a desert and mountain terrain like we encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These terrorists are operating with the assistance of some of the indigenous Sinai tribes influenced by radical Islam as a means to address decades of Cairo neglect.
While the United States had many missteps in the Middle East especially dealing with militant radical quasi-military Islamic terrorist groups, it now has an opportunity to be on the right side of history in the fight against the Islamic State.
The United States must step in with massive training and military assistance to Egypt. This is the one chance where we have a capable on the ground forces that lack the up-to-date technology and know-how. We gained that experience and know-how in Iraq and Afghanistan that we can provide and stop the Islamic State once and for all.
There is no doubt that the Egyptian military will fight valiantly in defense of their country, but they need the proactive assistance of the United States NOW.
The rest of the story is that radical quasi-militarized Islamic groups are not invincible and are not on the rise as we have come to portray them. They do not have the wide popular support in the region and especially in Egypt. Their brand of Islam and interpretation thereof is categorically refused by the wide majority of people. The Egyptian military is well organized and constitutes a cohesive fighting force that can once-and-for-all break the backs of radical fighters.
Extending a helping hand to Egypt now -- not with boots on the ground, but with technology and know-how -- will insure victory in the Sinai. This is not only good for Egypt but for the United States and our other long time ally in the region: Israel. So, as Paul Harvey would have said: now, America, you have the rest of the story!
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