Egypt Takes Charge
The country demonstrates a desire to play a positive role in regional security
Whether it’s addressing human trafficking in Sudan, conducting counterterrorism operations in the Sinai, putting out peace feelers to Libyan tribal leaders or sustaining United Nations peacekeeping missions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt continues to play a large role in world affairs.
Its influence in the region helped earn Egypt a seat as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council in January 2016 after an absence of 20 years. Security Council members promptly named Egypt to chair its Counter Terrorism Committee, a platform from which Cairo promised to focus on issues such as Daesh, violence in neighboring Libya and religious intolerance.
“The decision reflects the trust placed in Egypt by Security Council members, particularly the permanent five,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said.
Egypt continues to demonstrate its ability to strengthen its position as a regional security partner:
- The country confirmed in December 2015 that it has joined the Saudi-led, 34-member Islamic bloc dedicated to countering Daesh and other terrorist groups.
- Egyptian security forces began 2016 with a ground and air assault on suspected Daesh fighters in the Sinai Peninsula. More than 50 Daesh members were reported killed as part of Operation Right of the Martyr 2 near the towns of El Arish, Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah.
- Egypt is sponsoring a push to modernize religious curriculum in the country’s schools to present a peaceful view of Islam at odds with the philosophy of terrorists. Scholars from Cairo’s Al-Azhar University have offered ideological support for the campaign.
- Cairo continued its engagement in United Nations’ peacekeeping missions and remains one of the top suppliers of security personnel to trouble spots such as Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur and the Central African Republic.
- The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hosted meetings in an attempt to unite Libyan political factions. The goal is to bring stability to a country that has not only become a base for terrorists but also a pipeline for human smuggling.
- Economic security took center stage with a government-directed economic revitalization of the Suez Canal zone that could provide more than 100,000 jobs to reduce societal discontent that fuels extremism. The project follows an $8 billion expansion of this strategically critical waterway.
- The Cairo Center for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa hosted training sessions in December 2015 to enable greater participation of Arab women in the fields of conflict resolution and peace building. Female trainees came from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan and other countries. The center also prepared to launch a project to train 600 military and civilian officials to deal with human trafficking victims in North Africa and beyond.
The Sinai operations against elements of Daesh — and the reputation of Al-Azhar — seemed to influence the U.N.’s decision to give Egypt a larger role in the fight against terrorism.
“Egypt’s experience amalgamates a combination of measures which have to be used to counter this phenomenon,” said Ahmed Hagag, former assistant to the secretary-general of Organization of African Unity. “It’s not only military means. Military means are very important, and terrorist organizations don’t understand any other language. But also Egypt believes in using the religious institutions which have worldwide authority among Muslims.”
The country has also sought out multinational training with its partners, sending troops and observers to such regional exercises as Eager Lion in Jordan and Eagle Resolve in Kuwait. The year 2015 ended with Egyptian participation in separate bilateral exercises with Jordan (Aqaba 2015) and Greece (Medusa 2015).