The United States has approved the sale of $100 million worth of border surveillance and monitoring equipment to Egypt, for use on the border with Libya.
The United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on July 8 said that it had approved the possible Foreign Military Sale to Egypt of a “Border Security Mobile Surveillance Sensor Security System and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $100 million.”
The system includes mobile surveillance sensor towers, mobile command and control (C2) systems, a regional C2 system, voice/data communications equipment, spare parts, support equipment, personnel training, training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related logistics and programme support.
“This mobile surveillance sensor security system will provide Egypt with advanced capabilities intended to bolster its border surveillance capabilities along its border with Libya and elsewhere. This procurement is intended for Egyptian Border Guard Forces, which currently lack any remote detection capability along unpatrolled areas of Egypt’s borders. This system would provide an early warning capability to allow for faster response times to mitigate threats to the border guards and the civilian population,” the DSCA said.
The principal contractors would be Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland; Northrop Grumman in Falls Church, Virginia; and DRS Technologies in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Egypt shares a thousand kilometres of border with Libya, which is prone to weapons and drug smuggling and is also used as a staging ground for extremist organisations like Islamic State, which is making steady inroads into strife-torn Libya. Egypt is believed to have supplied Libya with aircraft, and conducted air strikes in Libya, in an effort to stop instability spreading into Egypt.
“The conditions on the Libyan border pose challenges that must be taken into account. They represent an imminent danger to Egyptian national security on the levels of law enforcement, politics, diplomacy and the economy,” General Rifat Abd al-Hamid, an expert in criminology, told publication As-Safir late last year. “There are terrorist cells located in eastern Libya that possess weapons and materiel left over from the Gaddafi regime’s arsenal, allowing them to easily disrupt Egyptian national security. This is as dangerous as the situation on the eastern border. But luckily, the Egyptian state became aware of this danger early on. There are now reinforcements on the western border, and any violation of that border will be handled with the utmost decisiveness.
“According to international law, it is Egypt’s right to secure its borders as it sees fit. The danger is interwoven with conditions inside Egypt. This also must be taken into consideration. This subject has been studied, and the Egyptian [security] services are aware of it. We will soon hear about the surprises that the armed forces have in store to get these groups under control.”
General Nabil Fouad, a professor of strategic studies, told As-Safir that the presence of al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Libyan groups on the border represents a threat to Egyptian security.
Libya has descended into factional fighting, leaving the country almost lawless nearly four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Two competing governments backed by militia brigades are scrambling for control of the oil-producing country and the chaos has created havens for Islamist militants.
After Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in February, Egypt responded to the killings with air strikes on militant camps, training sites and arms storage areas in Libya.
In late March the United States announced it was lifting its hold on the supply of military equipment to Egypt, which was frozen when the military took power in Cairo nearly two years ago, clearing the way for the release of 12 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft, 20 Boeing Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits made by General Dynamics. The United States in April approved the potential sale of 356 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles to Egypt in a deal worth an estimated $57 million including spares, training and logistics support.