Egypt Reshuffles Top Military and Police Officers

Dr. Shaul Shay on the personnel changes in the Egyptian armed forces, as part of President al Sisi's new strategy against terror

In early July 2014, the Egyptian military released a bulletin detailing personnel changes in the armed forces. The 2015 reshuffle of top military officers is an unusual step and a part of President al Sisi's new strategy against terror, which includes structural, operational and personnel changes.

The last reshuffles included the commanders of the main forces that are involved in fighting terrorism in Sinai – the "unified command", Second and Third Field Armies, Military intelligence and the Navy.

On January 31, 2015, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi chaired a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), during which he issued a presidential decree to form a "unified command" for the area east of the Suez Canal and for fighting terrorism. The creation of the new command came after a cluster of violent attacks against security targets in the Sinai Peninsula and two days after a deadly militant attack on security and army positions in El Arish in North Sinai governorate that left at least 30 dead, including army personnel and civilians.

President al Sisi has appointed the former commander of Third Field Army Maj. Gen. Osama Askar as the head of the "Unified Command" and promoted him to rank of lieutenant general. Gen Askar also retained his seat on the SCAF.

Third Field Army - Gen. Askar’s former deputy, Muhammad Abdullah, has been appointed commander of Third Field Army, and Tarek Anwar Helal the chief of staff, of the Third Field Army.The Third Army oversees army operations in South Sinai and Suez.

Two months later, Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy announced another reshuffle of several senior military officers:

Military intelligence - Major General Salah El-Badry, the head of military intelligence, was replaced by Major General Mohamed El-Shahat. The new military intelligence chief, General Mohamed El-Shahat, graduated from the department of infantry and was the head of the Second Field Army. Major General Salah El-Badry was given the title of Assistant to the Minister of Defense.

Second field Army - Major General Nasser El-Assy replaced Major General El-Shahat as the head of the Second Field Army. Major General El-Shahat was nominated as head of the second army in March 2014 (he served about one year in this position).

Major General El-Assy was the Second Field Army’s chief of staff. The new head of the Second Field Army is a prominent commander of military operations in North Sinai in the past months.

The second army is stationed along the Suez Canal and in North Sinai. The Second Army has been engaged in a war against militants in Sinai which has intensified since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. 

Navy - Rear Admiral Osama Mounir, former director of the Faculty of the Navy and the navy chief of staff replaced Rear Admiral Osama El-Gendy as the commander of the navy. Rear Admiral Osama El-Gendy was appointed in the same decree as a deputy for the Suez Canal Authority (SCA.) The deputy post of SCA was newly formed for Gendy to occupy, military sources told youm 7. Rear Admiral Ahmed Khaled replaced Rear Admiral Mounir as the navy chief of staff. 

Egypt’s naval forces are participating in the war against terror along the coastlines of Sinai. The Egyptian navy is undergoing operations in the Red Sea as part of "Operation Resolute Storm" against Yemen’s Houthis. Egypt has sent 4 vessels to secure the strategic straits of Bab al Mandab.

Interior Ministry and police - In March 2015, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was removed from his post as part of a cabinet reshuffle by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Ibrahim was replaced by former head of the National Security Agency, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar. Ibrahim was appointed advisor to the Prime Minister on security issues.

In April 2015, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar has reshuffled 22 top officials within the ministry, including several aides and general-directors within the Public Security Sector.

The new formed "unified command" represents a more proactive approach in combating terrorism, with better coordination between intelligence and the ground forces and better synergy of the commandos, paratroopers, rapid deployment forces, mechanized infantry, artillery and the air force.

An Egyptian military source claimed that the reshuffle is “unrelated to any events,” but aims to besiege “extremist groups” in North Sinai, and “pump new blood” in the military leadership, and found a new strategy based on intelligence. 

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