The US has approved the sale of 300 Humvees to cash-strapped Lebanon in a deal worth more than $55 million, tightening military co-operation between the two countries as relations strain over proposed financial sanctions.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a partner country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” the State Department said as it announced the move.
It added that the Humvees would “provide sufficient modern transport vehicles to improve Lebanon’s capability to meet current and future threats by improving its ability to move troops and supplies around the country to counter violent extremist organisations and to secure its border.”
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Lebanon has faced many security challenges in recent years, with a near 400-kilometre border with Syria allowing violence, arms and extremist groups to spill over into the cedar state.
The new vehicles, to be delivered in two batches, will join the Lebanese armed forces existing 1,000-strong fleet of Humvees.
As part of the sale, two US contractor representatives will be seconded to Beirut to assist with training and maintenance of the vehicles.
The armoured vehicles have become a familiar sight in Beirut, and across the country, being deployed for tasks ranging from embassy guard to duties to counter-terrorism operations.
The US is Lebanon’s top security partner, and in 2019 provided more than $218m worth of military aid to Lebanon’s armed forces.
Lebanon relies on donations from the US and other states for the bulk of its military hardware with defence spending largely taken up with ammunition procurement, salaries and pensions.
The deal comes as US-Lebanon relations have strained in recent months, with Washington sanctioning a slew of Lebanese government officials over their links to Hezbollah.
Last week it was reported that the Trump administration was threatening to sanction the country’s central bank in a move that could see the country’s ailing financial system isolated from the international economy.