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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.

Since 25 April 1982, for the third time in history, an international peacekeeping force has been operational in the Sinai Peninsula. Unlike the earlier United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) I and UNEF II,[1] the Multi—national Force and Observers (MFO) supervises implementation of a peace treaty instead of an armistice line and, moreover, does not operate under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). Another peculiarity is that, for the first time, the United States is participating in a peacekeeping operation. As of December 2015 approximately 700 military personnel were assigned to or supporting the US contingent of the Multinational Force and Observers.

Following years of violent confrontation, Egypt and Israel signed a treaty on March 26, 1979, that ended the existing state of war and agreed to the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Sinai. Although the treaty proposed that U.N. forces and observers supervise these security arrangements, the United States committed to providing a multinational force if the U.N. process failed. When the U.N. Security Council failed to reach an agreement, the governments of Egypt and Israel signed a protocol to the treaty in 1981 that established the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).

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 MFO is to supervise the implementation of the annex to the peace treaty and to employ/its best efforts to prevent any violations. To provide maximum security for both parties, the peace treaty provides four limited—force zones in Egyptian and Israeli territory. The military restrictions within each zone allow:

  • Zone A - An Egyptian armed force of one mechanized infantry division with up to 22,000 personnel, its military installations and field fortifications.
  • Zone B — Egyptian border units of four battalions with up to 4,000 men equipped with light weapons and wheeled vehicles.
  • Zone C — Only MFO and Egyptian civil police.
  • Zone D - Four Israeli infantry battalions with up to 4,000 personnel, their military installations and field fortifications.

In addition, the peace treaty provides some restrictions concerning the aerial military regime, the naval regime and early warning systems in these zones. The Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba are considered international waterways, open to all nations for unimpeded and nonsuspendible freedom of navigation and overflight.

Acting with full respect for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, a protocol was negotiated between Egypt and Israel, witnessed by the United States and signed on 3 August 1981. This protocol established the MFO as an alternative to the UN peacekeeping force and observers. On 25 April 1982, after 15 years of Israeli rule, the remaining part of the Sinai was returned to Egypt, and the MFO began operation.

In the framework of international law, the MFO is an international organization, established by the protocol to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The director general, who was appointed by both parties for a term of four years, is responsible for the direction of the MFO in the fulfillment of its functions and is authorized to act on behalf of the MFO.

The role of the director general could be likened to that of the secretary—general of the United Nations. The protocol directs that the post of director general will be held by a US national. Subject to approval by both parties, the director general appoints, for a term of three years, the force commander who is responsible for the daily command of the MFO. The force commander reports to the director general and the appointed representatives of Israel andEgypt. He exercises command for all forces and civilians assigned to the area of operations. The force commander, is a non—US national with the rank of general. The force commander's headquarters is located in El Gorah in northeastern Sinai. It consists of a US chief of staff and 70 staff officers drawn from all participating countries.

A large portion of the MFO's supplies come from the United States through both the Department of Defense supply system and civilian procurement by the MFO. Items from the United States average more than 90 days enroute. About 15 percent of the supplies are obtained from Egypt and Israel. \When one considers all of these physical factors and operations in a politically sensitive region, the logistic support function becomes a very special operation, presenting problems and solutions that do not always follow standard logistic doctrine.

Logistical support includes both base camp support and field logistics. Support is provided in all areas of supply, maintenance, services and facilities engineering. The center ._\of support operations is in the North Base Camp where the force headquarters, logistic support unit and support contractor are located. Similar support is provided at the South Base Camp although at a reduced level.

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) operate thirty two remote observation posts, and MFO coastal patrol vessels monitor traffic through the Straits of Tiran. The MFO is composed of soldiers from eleven nations and receives financial support from three others.

MFO Drawdown - No!!!

The treaty can be terminated by the consent of the parties; it does not contain a specific end date or establish specific conditions that, if met, would allow MFO to withdraw troops.

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 put 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.

When the Bush administration considered scaling back U.S. involvement in the MFO, Egypt and Israel joined together to urge the White House to reconsider. Since 2002, the MFO’s US contingent has been composed of citizen soldiers from the Army National Guard, military units controlled by governors that can be activated by the federal government for military operations.

As of 2004 MFO had 1,685 troops and a civilian workforce of about 100 international and local national staff who manage the organization and its annual budget of $51 million. To manage its operations, the MFO has developed personnel, financial management, budget, and internal control systems.

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