Sunday, February 6, 2011

A view from Egypt & US military movements

From one of my readers:

I received the following message this morning from a close friend in Egypt, who is very much engaged in the events now consuming the country. Since I received this note, some new dramatic events have transpired. President Obama's special Egypt envoy, Frank Wisner, a former U.S. Ambassador there and a close friend of President Mubarak, spoke at the Wehrkunde conference in Munich, and announced that Mubarak had to remain in office to steer the transition to a new government, etc. This is a 180 degree turn, after Obama's own "out now" demands, that were very impolitic, unless they had been already pre-negotiated. As a precondition for Mubarak staying on, his son Gamal, and the head of the ruling party, Sharif, were both forced to resign, which they did this afternoon. A reform-minded figure has been named as the replacement for both men, a good sign. In the Tahrir Square, there are growing indications that the Army may attempt to clear out the demonstrators, which could rile things up as bad as the Wednesday-Thursday hooligan attacks, organized by the Interior Ministry and the "oligarchs" behind the looting of the country under the radical privativation of post-1996. So things are in flux, and the U.S. Administration's involvement now seems to be in the hands of some people who know the Egyptian situation alot better than the White House circles around the President. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are handling the contact with Omar Suleiman, the VP; and Gates and Mullen are dealing continuously with their counterpart. Here is my friend's status report:

"The protests in Egypt have reached an impasse and seem now ,one day after the "departure Friday" to be turning in a circle..The population is slowly loosing steam and some sectors are turning to a neutral position or to worst. The kids in Tahrir SQ are determined and they still have quite a bit of support but the wind is turning slowly to an unfavorable direction. Mubarak showed an unexpected ability to hold on. and the morale among his aids are improving.
The question now is what will happen in the day after. In similar circumstances the defeat of such an uprising pave the road to a much more authoritarian regime. There are certain consequences to the "explosion" that happened. One important factor that needs to be examined is the position of the Muslem Brotherhood (MBs). While many in and out of Egypt are coming to terms with the fact that it is a political force that should not be ignored, there are two developments that place simultaneously right now. The first is the split in the leadership with the old guard taking a cautious position on the issue of participating in the protests, the other is the younger generation which resulted from the movement in the universities during the 70s which sided with full participation. The first couple of days there was no participation as the intensive debate was going on inside the two wings of the leadership. The continuation of the protest and its intensity settled the debate in favor of full participating. Due to the total lack of experience among the young men who caused this spark, the MBs were increasing gradually their role. The situation was developing - and still is - to a peculiar configuration where the kids (secular and opened) were becoming the junior partner. But the MBs were sensitive not to challenge them in their role of leadership so far as the slogans do not contradict their platform.
The other development on the circle of the the MBs is not related to the leadership but rather to the bases. The younger generation of membership may split after the failure of the uprising and resort to more radical means and ideologies.Contrary to the 70s generation of the the membership the current one is shaped by the general social and economic deterioration of Egypt. They come from lower classes with much less relation to culture or sophistication. Both the MBs leadership and the society overall will face a generation of young member of the movement which tends to more radical positions that may lead them to leaving the MBs and forming new small and radical groups as similar to what happened in the late 80s and 90s.
Overall. the tendency of the regime in the "day after" to be even more authoritarian could enhance the development to violence particularly when all hopes of peaceful reform, or any reform for that matter, disappear in their minds.
The regime will be tempted to crack down. The hated police force will be tempted to increase the dose of humiliation to a population that dared to burn all police stations. The relatively small margin of debate that was there could disappear. This will be one of the worst consequences because simply it will terminate any attempts to get a real economic development plan without which this country will be doomed to decades of instability.
Could the regime introduce a real economic development plan?. It depends on the level of understanding of the gravity of what happened and its latent and obvious consequences. The momentum of the "victory" of the regime if it could achieve a real victory may not leave room to restrain or reflection and understanding. Therefore, I believe that the fate of this country for decades to come will be hanging on what the Mubarak regime will do in the coming few months."
the same friend also sent me this:

Sinai is still in play...and great instability and possible Insurrections/Resistance to the Regime is a possibility within Egypt...if Mubarak or his cronies persist in hanging on to power with various deceptions.....

Connecticut's newspaper The Day noted on January 24th:

Connecticut National Guard Detachment 2, Company I, 185th Aviation Regiment of Groton has mobilized and will deploy to the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, to support the Multinational Force and Observers.

The unit left Connecticut Jan. 15 for Fort Benning, Ga., for further training and validation. The unit operates C-23C Sherpa aircraft and has deployed three times in the last seven years in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit will provide an on-demand aviation asset to the Multinational Force and Observers commander to support its mission of supervising the security provisions of the Egypt/ Israel Peace Treaty.Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported:

The Pentagon is moving U.S. warships and other military assets to make sure it is prepared in case evacuation of U.S. citizens from Egypt becomes necessary, officials said Friday.

The Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying 700 to 800 troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the Ponce have arrived in the Red Sea, putting them off Egypt’s shores in case the situation worsens.

Pentagon officials emphasized that military intervention in Egypt was not being contemplated and that the warships were being moved only for contingency purposes in case evacuations became necessary.

In addition to the Marines, the Kearsarge normally carries around four dozen helicopters and harrier jets that would permit evacuations and other humanitarian operations, the officials said. More than 1,000 Marines from the Kearsarge were sent to Afghanistan last month on a temporary deployment, leaving roughly one-third still aboard, officials said.

The Kearsarge is an attack vessel.

As Wikipedia notes:

In carrying out her mission, Kearsarge not only transports and lands ashore troops, but also tanks, trucks, artillery, and the complete logistic support needed to supply an assault.

The assault support system aboard ship coordinates horizontal and vertical movement of troops, cargo and vehicles. Monorail trains, moving at speeds up to 600 ft/min (3 m/s), transport cargo and supplies from storage and staging areas throughout the ship to a 13,600 square feet (1,260 m2) well deck which opens to the sea through huge gates in the ship's stern. There, the cargo, troops and vehicles are loaded aboard landing craft for transit to the beach. The air cushion landing craft can "fly" out of the dry well deck, or the well deck can be flooded so conventional landing craft can float out on their way to the beach.

Simultaneously, helicopters are brought from the hangar deck to the flight deck by two deck-edge elevators and loaded with supplies from three massive cargo elevators.

Kearsarge's armament suite includes the NATO RIM-7 Sea Sparrow point defense system for anti-aircraft support, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, 25 mm chain guns and the Phalanx close-in weapon system to counter threats from low-flying aircraft and close-in small craft. Missile decoy launchers augment the anti-ship missile defenses.

However, the Kearsarge has also been used in missions to evacuate people stranded in war zones. Wikipedia describes this unique dual capability:
Kearsarge is fully capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions. Since her commissioning, she has performed these missions the world over, including evacuating non-combatants from Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 31 May 1997 and rescuing Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady from Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia on 8 June 1995. Additionally, Kearsarge is fully equipped with state of the art command and control (C&C) systems for flagship command duty, and her medical facilities are second in capability only to the Navy's hospital ships, USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) and Mercy (T-AH-19). These facilities allowed Kearsarge to serve a dual role during the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as a platform for bombing missions against Serb forces in Operation Allied Force, and as a treatment facility for Albanian refugees in Operation Shining Hope.The Los Angeles Times continues:  
In addition, the aircraft carrier Enterprise is in the eastern Mediterranean. The Pentagon originally announced that the carrier was heading through the Suez Canal for the Arabian Gulf, but the crisis in Egypt appears to have prompted a decision to keep it in the Mediterranean at least temporarily. Egypt borders the Mediterranean Sea (as well as the Red Sea):

The Enterprise is the longest naval vessel in the world, and is powered by eight nuclear reactors. The Enterprise does not appear to have any dual role for evacuations, but is simply an offensive aircraft carrier.

Therefore, I see no clear indication that the U.S. government has affirmatively decided to directly involve our military in Egypt. However, it is obvious that the government is at least planning for the possibility.

Update: Business Insider notes:
A "very senior" member of the US Marine corps is telling people "multiple platoons" are deploying to Egypt, a source tells us.

There is a system within the US Marines that alerts the immediate families of high-ranking marines when their marine will soon be deployed to an emergency situation where they will not be able to talk to their spouses or families.

That alert just went out, says our source.

This senior Marine told our source that the Pentagon will deploy "multiple platoons" to Egypt over the next few days and that the official reason will be ‘to assist in the evacuation of US citizens."

Our source was told that "the chances they were going over there went from 70% yesterday to 100% today."