An Egyptian military initiative to arm and recruit local fighters to fight Islamic State militants on the volatile Sinai Peninsula is amounting to be a resounding flop, security sources and residents in the region told Reuters Wednesday.
Egypt launched the program last year to much fanfare, as tribal leaders pledged to provide 300 men who know the ins and outs of the terrain. But so far the program has yielded no more than 35 new recruits, sources told Reuters.
The program has been stifled by attacks from the Islamic State – which are scaring off would-be tribal troops – and the military’s reluctance to provide weapons to the fighters.
"The militias are child's-play. It is a failed initiative,” a counter-terrorism researcher – who was not identified – told Reuters. “These guys are getting the floor wiped with them by the Islamists. They do not have the training to match them."
Sinai Province, the Sinai branch of ISIS, claims to have executed at least 17 people so far this year. On Feb. 28, the group said on an online message board that it had set up checkpoints across the Sinai to intercept anyone who tries to collaborate with the military.
Both sides give varying accounts of how many people Sinai Province has killed. The terror group says 1,400 in the previous 15 months, while the military says the number is 69.
A police captain in North Sinai told Reuters that tribal fighters are being advised by the military and police, but receive no formal combat training.
Other tribal leaders are hesitant to have their men armed, fearing outbreaks of infighting.
Egypt’s military has refused to comment on its Sinai operations.