Counter-Terrorism: Egypt Goes Blind In The Sinai


September 7, 2010: Since deciding to crack down on Bedouin smugglers in the Sinai, the Egyptian military has thus far had a tough time eradicating the smugglers from their desert strongholds. Instead of a police action, the Egyptians have been undertaking a full-scale military campaign against the arms and narcotics traffickers on the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border, complete with armored vehicles and helicopter gunships. Most senior Egyptian commanders knew that the smuggling problem had become too serious for the paramilitary (corrupt and intimidated) border guards  to handle and required military intervention to put a stop to it. However, most of Egypt's generals figured that the smugglers would be easily killed, arrested, or suppressed once the "awesome might" of the Egyptian Army was deployed against them. This is not unusual in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, where the general population, especially military officers, are taught from the time they enter school that their military is the most powerful, competent, and honest in the world. Of course none of this is true, and it's starting to show. Egypt's army is largely illiterate (especially among the enlisted ranks), rife with corruption, and wedded to outdated organizational concepts and tactics. It's large and has shiny new weapons, but levels of training, discipline, and faith in its officer corps are a serious problem.  

One of the biggest problems the Egyptians are facing during their fight against the smugglers now is with their intelligence services. The inefficiency, incompetence, and brutality of Egypt's intelligence services has been a big problem for well over two decades, but like all major problems in Egypt that need fixing, the government refuses to acknowledge it, let alone do something about it. Part of this isn't necessarily new in the Middle East. In the Arab world, intelligence services are usual less than effective in fighting terrorism or countering espionage. This is thanks largely to the fact that governments in those parts of the world see their spies as a means of keeping themselves in power, and often spend more time arresting and spying on their own people as opposed to arresting and spying on terrorists, spies and foreign powers. This is especially true in Egypt, where a myriad of security and intelligence services spend most of their time torturing and detaining the government's critics. 

Egypt's security services include the General Intelligence Directorate (GIS), Office of Military Intelligence Services and Reconnaissance (OMISR), and the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS). The OMISR, basically the Egyptian equivalent of the US Army Military Intelligence job of handling the military's human and signals intelligence functions. As much as can be expected in a country where incompetence is the rule rather than the exception, the OMISR functions reasonably well. The GIS, known as the Gihaz al-Mukhabarat al-Amma, and the SSIS, are another story. Both organizations are notorious for their corruption, brutality, and eagerness to imprison the regime's opponents, often using sham military tribunals authorized under Egypt's Emergency Rule. In theory, the SSIS and the GIS operate as Egypt's domestic and foreign intelligence services, with a focus on counter-terrorism. Unfortunately, the amount of time both agencies spend spying on the population leaves them little time for carrying out important duties, like actually investigating espionage and terrorism. Or developing assets and informants in the Sinai to help aid the army's campaign against the smugglers. Unfortunately for the soldiers fighting in the Sinai, lack of good intelligence is likely to continue in the long-term future, further damaging not only the military's anti-trafficking mission but Egypt's international reputation as a major military power. 




Article Archive

Counter-Terrorism: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close