Aftandilian in The Hill on Egypt’s North Sinai Campaign


Gregory Aftandilian, Lecturer at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, co-wrote a recent Op-Ed assessing Egypt’s campaign against ISIS affiliated fighters in the North Sinai.

Aftandilian’s Op-Ed, entitled “Egypt’s Heavy Hand in the Sinai Unlikely to Quell Terrorist Insurgency,” was published March 7, 2018 in The Hill.

From the text of the Op-Ed:

Despite positive pronouncements by the Sisi regime, Egypt’s campaign against ISIS affiliated fighters in the North Sinai is not going well. Part of the problem is the regime’s blunt force approach — indiscriminate bombing as well as the razing of entire villages and some extrajudicial killings — is ill suited to the requirements of effective counterterrorism operations. After a long period of ignoring advice from American and European experts, an increasingly stymied military command has finally begun to participate in joint training exercises with U.S. forces. It is hoped the Egyptians are open to learning from the painful lessons the U.S. took away from Iraq and Afghanistan. Early indications are not encouraging.

An anecdote making the rounds in Washington involves a training exercise, held in a mock village, wherein an Egyptian soldier came under attack, after returning fire, the soldier’s next course of action was to call in air strikes. When his U.S. counterpart questioned his call, pointing out many villagers would likely die in such a strike, the soldier merely shrugged his shoulders and said the villagers were probably all guilty anyway. Apocryphal or not, this in microcosm captures the futility of Egypt’s outdated attitudes and doctrine in the face of complex challenges posed by terrorists in North Sinai.

Aftandilian spent over 21 years in government service, most recently on Capitol Hill where he was foreign policy adviser to Congressman Chris Van Hollen (2007-2008), professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and foreign policy adviser to Senator Paul Sarbanes (2000-2004), and foreign policy fellow to the late Senator Edward Kennedy (1999).