US to grant $120m to the Lebanese Army

Represents a $15m increase from last year for Lebanon’s cash-strapped military

epa09201660 Lebanese army soldiers patrol Al Odaisseh area opposite the Al-Mutaleh Israeli settlement at the Lebanese border with Israel, 15 May 2021. People protested to support Palestinians following the past violence which has, according to local health authorities killed at least 139 people in Gaza and 7 in Israel.  EPA/NABIL MOUNZER
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The US pledged on Friday to give $120 million to the Lebanese Armed Forces, boosting annual aid by 12 per cent as a severe economic crisis takes a toll on the military.

The decision was announced at a virtual meeting between Eliot Kang, US senior official for arms control and international security, and Lebanon Armed Forces commander Gen Joseph Aoun. Senior officials from both sides were also present at the meeting.

"The US Department of State renewed its commitment to the [Lebanese Armed Forces] by announcing $120m in foreign military financing assistance to Lebanon,” the US embassy in Beirut said.

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The American aid will go towards reinforcing “shared priorities in counter-terrorism, border security and defence-institution building".

The US announcement follows a warning by Gen Aoun in March in which he said the military is in dire need of help lest soldiers “go hungry” as Lebanon grapples with the economic crisis.

His warning had raised concerns among Lebanon’s allies that the army may be stretched too thin, with paramilitary groups such as Iran-backed Hezbollah and militant groups operating in neighbouring Syria.

This year, the Lebanese Army announced it would no longer be serving meat to its soldiers as it was too expensive.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 80 per cent of its value in the past year and a half, slashing the purchasing power of Lebanese residents, including military personnel, at a time of social and political unrest.

In a letter sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the economic hardship of Lebanese soldiers “threatens to lead to desertions, degradation of the force and further civil conflict".

“Non-state armed groups like Hezbollah and other militias that threaten Israel and the broader region stand to gain in their stead,” the letter says.

Lebanon is one of the biggest recipients of US security assistance, the American embassy stated.

Since 2006, the armed forces have benefited from more than $2 billion in military investments from the US.

The assistance aims to strengthen border control and fend off extremist groups, which briefly took control of the town of Arsal bordering Syria in 2014.

The aid is meant for the fiscal year 2021, which starts in October.