No room for compromise in Egypt’s war on terror

Terrorism is the ugliest tactic devised by man in this century; an act conceived and driven by sick-minded people that aims at murdering the greatest number of innocent citizens. The ongoing comprehensive military operation, ‘Sinai 2018’, that was launched in the Sinai roughly ten days ago requires the employment of the full force of the Egyptian State and the support of the entire population.

I am not familiar with the circumstances that drove Egypt to hold back for few years prior to launching a comprehensive military operation against terrorism in the Sinai. In any event, what we must do now is to fully back the ongoing mission of our military and police forces, who have successfully identified and destroyed numerous terrorist cells, demolished a number of 4×4 wheelers used in terrorist attacks and killed and arrested a number of terrorists.

Fighting terrorism is the one issue that needs the full-fledged support of all citizens; it should not be a subject for political debate. Nonetheless, we presently need to prepare strategies to prevent terrorists from reemerging in the Sinai once the ongoing successful security operation is accomplished. Egyptian citizens who live in the Sinai constitute our front line; they can either work on detecting and signaling any reemergence of terrorism – or they can become vulnerable to terrorist penetration.

Some argue that the Egyptian State’s mistreatment of Sinai citizens causes them to shield terrorists in their region – an outrageous claim. I tend to disagree with many of the State’s policies on diverse issues – with the exception of combating terrorism. If terrorism of the same magnitude and involving the same number of terrorists were to emerge in other Egyptian governorates, our government will react in a substantially harsher manner than what has been taking place in the Sinai.

Another farfetched narrative claims that the Egyptian military is working to get rid of terrorism in order to handover part of the Sinai to the Palestinians to settle in. This kind of rumor works on undermining Egyptian morale concerning the purpose of fighting terrorism. I am confident it does not affect our military apparatus, which is completely focused on its mission. Additionally, Palestinian political leaders have stated on many occasions that they are only interested in regaining their territory – not in occupying the territory of other nations.

The ongoing operation in the Sinai may have some negative impact on citizens in the region, such as food, fuel or medical supply shortages, and I am certain that the State is doing its best to address these issues. Moreover, when the alternative is to live with terrorism, suffering for few days until we wipe it out completely is not a high price to pay.

While we should offer our full support and sympathy to citizens who live in the Sinai, we need nevertheless to determine the most effective methodology for strengthening that region, working on immunizing its citizens from engaging in terrorist activity. We keep hearing of the number of projects that will be implemented in the Sinai; however, these projects tend to capitalize on the resources of the Sinai and to give most of the returns to citizens of other regions.

Our true challenge in Egypt lies in the fact that we tend not to engage citizens in various economic and political developments. This kind of distancing of citizens, so often applied by the Egyptian State, is what could drive a few people to engage in acts against the nation. If the Egyptian government were to offer Sinai citizens the ownership of these projects, it would give meaning and value to their lives that they would work to maintain.

The Egyptian State must recognize that some of its policies have not served our nation well. The emergence of terrorism is a clear sign of society’s illness. If the State still wants to shoulder the entire responsibility for protecting and developing Egypt, it should also be obliged to reap the outcome of terrorism. Sinai could become the first region where our government begins to apply a different approach. Let us capitalize on the current military successes to develop a new policy of citizen engagement.

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