The US is diverting $30 million in allocated military aid for Egypt to Lebanon, a US official told Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.
“This demonstrates the [Biden] administration’s unwavering commitment to supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF),” the official said.
Wednesday’s move comes after the Biden administration informed Congress that it was redirecting $85 million in military funds for Egypt due to human rights violations. About $55 million is expected to be sent to Taiwan. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the decision.
Support for the LAF has mostly been a bipartisan effort in recent years. “Support to the LAF is vital to maintaining stability in the country, more so than ever with the paralysis of the government,” the US official said.
On Monday, the top US military general for the Middle East, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Beirut. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said this was to further training cooperation and counter regional threats. Gen. Kurilla met with LAF Gen. Joseph Aoun and visited the “highly trained soldiers of the 4th Intervention Regt.”
Yesterday, to further training cooperation and counter regional threats, Gen. Michael “Eric” Kurilla, USCENTCOM CDR, visited Beirut, Lebanon for a meeting with Chief of Defense Gen. Joseph Aoun. Gen. Kurilla also visited the highly trained soldiers of the 4th Intervention Regt. pic.twitter.com/XDQJPnsjgy— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) September 12, 2023
Lebanon has received billions of dollars from the US in humanitarian, education and military aid since 2006. This support has traditionally been delivered with little pushback from senators and members of Congress.
US officials have said that support for the LAF is also crucial for US national security interests, strengthening Lebanon’s state institutions and pushing back against Hezbollah.
Last month, the LAF confiscated a Hezbollah truck filled with ammunition after it flipped on a main highway and subsequently led to deadly clashes.
Critics have said the LAF needs to do more to push back on Iran-backed Hezbollah, which continues to exert influence over most aspects of the government and, along with Palestinian factions, is the only other group with weapons outside the state’s control.
Nevertheless, the LAF has been a critical partner in the fight against ISIS. US and Lebanese officials also say the army has successfully intercepted almost 90 percent of Captagon and other narcotics smuggling efforts along the border with Syria.
The Biden administration adopted a Republican-led effort to combat drug trafficking by proposing a strategy outlined in the Captagon Act.
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Top US military general meets Lebanese Army commander, Pentagon reaffirms supportGen. Aoun is also scheduled to fly to Tampa to meet with US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. Frank McKenzie. Middle East