US committed to supporting ‘sturdy, dependable partners’ in Lebanon’s army: Diplomat

“We regard the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] and the Internal Security Forces [ISF] as pillars of more than just immediate law and order,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said.

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A senior US diplomat said Friday that the Biden administration was committed to supporting Lebanon’s army and internal security forces, but warned the country could face a further collapse.

“We regard the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] and the Internal Security Forces [ISF] as pillars of more than just immediate law and order,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said.

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Washington has committed close to $3 billion to the LAF since 2006, which has been a critical partner in the fight against terrorism. It is also believed to be an important investment by the West against Iran-backed Hezbollah, which continues, along with Palestinian factions, to be the only group with weapons outside of the state’s control.

Leaf praised the LAF and ISF for contributing to assistance in the aftermath of the catastrophic Beirut Port blast in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. “And, of course, they are critical to internal security,” she said during a panel at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

The Biden administration has provided in-kind assistance to the LAF and ISF, as well as defense articles and food.

They have even gone as far as working to contribute to direct salary payments to Lebanese soldiers.

As Lebanon’s currency has lost over 90 percent of its value against the dollar since anti-government protests rocked the country in 2019, the rank-and-file soldier’s monthly salary is worth less than $100 per month.

But Leaf voiced frustration with the Lebanese government and its lawmakers for failing to help its soldiers. “We never do direct salary payments… this is an extraordinary thing for extraordinary times, and, of course, it’s not something that a foreign government can or should do indefinitely.

“That is the responsibility of the parliament and the cabinet. They need to get to work,” Leaf said.

Dubbing the LAF and ISF as “absolutely critical,” she said the US commitment remained. “They are sturdy, dependable partners for us. They’ve done great work for the Lebanese people. So yeah, we’re committed,” the top US diplomat for the Middle East said.

Read more: US support for Lebanese army proves effective

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