The top US military official for the Middle East will visit Beirut on July 8, diplomatic sources and Lebanese political sources have confirmed.
US Central Command chief, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, will meet with Lebanese government and military officials during his visit, described as “routine,” by an official source. McKenzie is expected to make stops in other countries in the region, including Iraq.
The source told Al Arabiya English that Lebanon would express its frustration with US policies toward Lebanon. “They should at least ask for our opinion before they do what they are doing,” the source said, without elaborating.
Lebanon has come under increased pressure from the international community to carry out reforms that would curb decades of corruption, wasted public funds and irresponsible spending, which has led to more than $80 billion in public debt.
In addition to this, Lebanon has failed to address Hezbollah’s weapons. The group, designated a terrorist organization by Washington, reportedly has a massive stockpile of precision-guided missiles; the Lebanese state does not control the group’s weapons.
Nevertheless, according to US officials, support for the Lebanese army will continue. This is something that has strong, bipartisan support between many Republicans and Democrats.
McKenzie has also voiced his conviction of the need to maintain a close relationship between the US and Lebanese armies.
During a webinar last month, McKenzie said the counterbalance to Hezbollah “for us is the LAF, the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
Although he admitted it was “not a perfect relationship,” McKenzie said that it needed to be viewed as “ultimately the expression of state security in Lebanon.”
The US general admitted that there was constant talk of cutting US funding for the Lebanese army, something he does not support. “I believe that they offer the best opportunity to provide security and sovereignty for Lebanon,” McKenzie said during the webinar.