WASHINGTON [MENL] — The United States plans to increase counter-insurgency cooperation with Egypt.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has begun consultations with Egypt on ways to increase security aid and cooperation. They said the cooperation would focus on intelligence exchange, border security and advanced technology to track insurgency squads in the Sinai Peninsula.

“We said that we stood ready, but I’m not aware of any kind of specific request for assistance,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. Officials said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered U.S. security assistance during a telephone conversation with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil. They said Ms. Clinton expressed her condolences for the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in an attack by suspected Al Qaida-aligned fighters along the Egyptian-Israeli border on Aug. 5.

“I don’t have any information about the Egyptians coming to us with a request for specific assistance in the Sinai,” Ventrell said on Aug. 8. Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid, with $1.3 billion a year. Congress has linked this aid to Egypt’s commitment to
democracy and security cooperation with Israel.

Since 2008, the United States has helped Cairo in efforts to control infiltration from the Gaza Strip to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Washington has provided training and equipment to detect activity within the estimated 1,200 tunnels that link Sinai to the Gaza Strip. But officials acknowledged that increasing lawlessness in Sinai has hampered security cooperation. They said U.S. security assistance could resume after Cairo stabilizes the situation through its military operation in Sinai.

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