International Operation Name: Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)
International Operation Dates: 1981/08/03 – Present
Mandating Organization: Egyptian - Israeli Treaty of Peace
Region Name: Middle East
Canadian Operation Name: Operation Calumet
Canadian Operation Dates: 1985/09/01 – Present
The mission of the MFO is to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian – Israeli Treaty of Peace and to employ best efforts to prevent any violation its terms
The long history of UN and other international efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East has seen the odd glimmers of hope. One such glimmer occurred in September 1978 when, following meetings sponsored by the United States and embracing Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords marked the start of a process that would end a thirty-year long state of war between Israel and Egypt. Just six months later, on 26 March 1979 the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel signed the Treaty of Peace, which resulted in a phased Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula scheduled for completion by April 1982.
During the period leading up to the signing of the treaty, it was understood by all concerned that the United Nations Security Council might not approve a standing peacekeeping force in the Sinai. Therefore, on March 26 1979, the day the Treaty of Peace was signed, US President Jimmy Carter sent identical letters to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin assuring both that the United States would take the necessary steps to ensure the establishment and maintenance of an alternative multinational force should the United Nations fail to assume this role.
As had been foreseen, when the mandate of the United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEFII) -- which had been in existence since 1973 -- expired in July 1979, the United Nations had not agreed to provide the peacekeeping force envisioned by the Treaty of Peace. This left the existing U.S. Sinai Field Mission (SFM), which had been established to work in concert with the UN to observe the provisions of the Peace Accord to continue the monitoring process. Accordingly, the SFM monitored the Israeli withdrawal process until April 1982, when the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) was formed to succeed the SFM in accordance with Carter’s promise and an agreement signed between the parties in August 1981.
The SFM had divided the Sinai into four distinct zones, each of which had its own specific limits on the numbers and types of troops, ordnance, and fortifications that could be located there. The MFO, provided by ten countries, took over this structure. With headquarters in El Gorah, Egypt, it continued to monitor compliance with the peace treaty’s security arrangements and to report violations by conducting patrols and operating checkpoints and observation posts along a strip of the eastern Sinai Peninsula twenty to forty kilometers wide and approximately 400 kilometers in length. Its area of responsibility also included the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Gulf of Aqaba, which were to be patrolled by naval units.
Canada was not an original contributor to MFO, but on 28 June 1985 Ottawa agreed to take over the duties of the Australian/New Zealand contingent the following spring. To this end, the Canadian Contingent MFO (CCMFO) was formed in September 1985 under Operation CALUMET. The initial Canadian unit to be deployed, 10 Tactical Aviation Group (10 TAG), consisted of 140 Canadian Forces (CF) personnel and nine CH-135 Twin Huey helicopters. Its advance parties began arriving in Egypt in February; one month later, on 31 March, the CCMFO took over command of its area from the Australian / New Zealand contingent.
The Canadian contingent’s duties included helicopter operations in support of observer inspections and verifications, infantry battalion support, VIP transport, medical evacuations, unit training, administrative and logistical tasks, command and control and search and rescue operations. The observers, mostly retired American military personnel and United States Department of State employees, usually carried out their inspections in teams of two and were dressed in bright orange uniforms. The Canadian Rotary Wing Aviation Unit (RWAU) was also responsible for the operation of the MFO’s air traffic control system and any other missions agreed upon.
The first unit to form the RWAU was 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) out of CFB Edmonton, followed in six-month rotations by 427 THS (Petawawa), 430 THS (Valcartier) and 403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron (Gagetown). The Canadian helicopter unit was withdrawn in March 1990 when rotary wing support duties were handed over to an American unit. As a result, since 1990 the Canadian contingent’s presence has been based on the contribution of approximately twenty-nine personnel at any time to serve with the MFO Headquarters in El Gorah, Egypt. Fourteen of these personnel serve on one-year tours of duty, the other fourteen on six-month tours. Canadians have usually provided the deputy commander and force sergeant major.
Photo: MCpl Frank Hudec, Canadian Forces Combat Camera
Cpl Darryl Roach an air traffic controller with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) poses in front of an MFO Twin Otter on the tarmac of MFO North Camp, El Gorah, Egypt.
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