Why did Wilayat Sinai – The Islamic State’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula – evolve to become an unprecedented challenge to the Egyptian state?
From 2012 to 2015, militant attacks in the Sinai have increased tenfold, to over 100 attacks per month on average in 2015. Egyptian military casualties are estimated to be over 700 deaths and counting – far higher than the 400 killed during the five-year Islamist insurgency in the 1990s. Egypt’s continuing struggle and inability to defeat the Wilayat Sinai-led insurgency is puzzling considering its numerical superiority, better military equipment, and extensive support from powerful countries.The emergence of this Islamic State-affiliated group as the most effective insurgent organization is best explained by three factors: the militants’ ability to consolidate a safe haven in northeastern Sinai, ineffective Egyptian counterinsurgency tactics, and the securing of vital external support. Growing instability in Egypt poses important implications for international security, especially since the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty remains a major cornerstone for regional stability. This paper is novel by applying insights from the scholarly literature to the insurgency in Sinai.