With the situation in Lebanon deteriorating and the economy in a freefall, Washington’s focus has turned to finding ways to support the Lebanese military.
The United States and other European countries have voiced a willingness to help financially, but any type of aid will not materialize before a government independent of the current political elite is formed and specific reforms are implemented.
This was the agreement reached between the international community and Lebanon as far back as 2018 when more than $11 billion in soft loans and grants were pledged at the CEDRE conference.
Lebanese officials took no action, and the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the Beirut blast, accelerated the country’s social, economic and financial collapse.
While the banking sector and the Lebanese army have often been referred to as the two main pillars of Lebanon’s stability, the banking sector has all but collapsed.
As for the military, Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun unleashed a diatribe against Lebanese officials last week, blaming them for the current situation.
The rank and file soldier’s monthly salary is worth less than $100 now with the local currency’s plummet.
The country’s interior minister also warned of the security situation spiraling out of control.
In Washington, the State Department has been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Lebanon.
But after the Lebanese army commander’s speech, the Pentagon quickly followed suit.
“The Defense Department is closely monitoring the situation. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) remain a critical institution in Lebanon and valued defense partner,” Pentagon Spokesperson Commander Jessica McNulty told Al Arabiya English.
With the army struggling to pay salaries sufficient for soldiers and their families, Washington is reportedly looking at ways to help.
However, no provision allows for direct aid in helping pay salaries for a foreign government’s army.
Previously the US looked at increasing counterterrorism funding for the Lebanese army; this could help ease the burden on the Lebanese army’s budget.
A similar method was used in Iraq years ago.
No comment was provided when asked if the Pentagon was planning to help in this capacity.
“The Pentagon shares concern with the entire US Government regarding the economic crisis in Lebanon and the suffering of the Lebanese people,” McNulty said.
She added: “We continually assess US support to the LAF to ensure it is consistent with US interests and values.”
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