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Multinational Force and Observers

Established in 1982 as a result of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) is an international peacekeeping organization located on the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. The MFO is a peacekeeping organization that was designed to provide a peacekeeping presence between Israel and Egypt.

The MFO is a multinational force (11 different countries to include the U.S., Fiji, Colombia, Uruguay, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, France, and Italy) that is composed of approximately 3,000 military and civilian individuals. The force and observers, totaling 1,900, are under the command of a Norwegian military officer. The US, Fijian, and Colombian contingencies comprise the majority of the soldiers since an infantry battalion from each of these contingencies are present to man the outlying remote sites.

The MFO is located in the Sinai desert, Egypt and is divided into two camps: North Camp and South Camp. North Camp is located in El Gorah, Egypt and is approximately 15 miles from the Gaza Strip (Israel). South Camp is approximately a 6 hour bus ride from North Camp and is located on the southern tip of the Sinai directly on the Red Sea in the resort city of Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.

Along the Egyptian/Israeli border, there are approximately 35 outlying remote sites where soldiers "observe and report" any movement on each side of the border. Soldiers remain on these sites anywhere from 21-42 days.

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) Mission comes with a high cost on warfighting readiness. Three to six months prior to deployment, the battalion ceases Air Assault Infantry Battalion Mission Essential Task Training, becomes non-deployable, and is removed from Division Ready Force (DRF) status. Upon redeployment, the Battalion reorganizes and conducts training on its Mission Essential Tasks. This takes three to six months before the battalion is again combat ready on all its warfighting tasks. Retraining is resource intensive. This mission puts a significant PERSTEMPO and OPTEMPO burden on the remaining battalions in the division to fill the operational void. A Multinational Force and Observers mission can cost up to 18 months of Air Assault Infantry Task Force Warfighting Readiness at the battalion level.

Citing the demands of the war on terrorism, in January 2002 US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called for withdrawing American troops from the Multinational Force and Observers. "I do not believe that we still need our forces in the Sinai. I just plain don't," Rumsfeld said. "And we're working carefully with our friends and allies in Israel and Egypt to see if there isn't some reasonable way that . . . we can modestly reduce some of those folks that are down there in the Sinai." By late January 2002, the Pentagon announced plans to reduce the number of US troops from 865 to 26.

In August 2002 the United States, Egypt and Israel started formal talks on reducing American military participation in the multinational peacekeeping force. The Bush Administration reportedly wanted to cut the American presence in the desert buffer zone to fewer than 50 soldiers.

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