The United States “remains fully committed” to continue providing millions of dollars in American taxpayer-funded military assistance to Lebanon, home to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, considered the most influential player in the country’s fractious political environment, confirmed a Pentagon spokesman.
Despite growing concerns that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are not entirely independent from the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Pentagon confirmed that it would continue arming the Middle Eastern country’s military to give them an edge against the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and other jihadists in the region.
Citing alleged comments from Robert Karem, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, to Congress, Al-Monitor reports that the Trump administration is expected to award the Lebanese military with about $110 million of military assistance.
Eric Pahon, a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spokesman, confirmed that the Pentagon was providing military aid to Lebanon, telling Breitbart News via email:
The United States remains fully committed to bolstering Lebanon’s stability, sovereignty and security. We will continue to assist Lebanon in contending with its complex security challenges for many years to come in order to achieve our shared goal of eliminating terrorism in the Middle East.
The Pentagon spokesman acknowledged the Hezbollah (also spelled Hizballah) menace facing Lebanon, noting:
Hizballah and its arms represent a threat to Lebanon security. We continue to call upon Hizballah to disarm … We continue to call upon the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces to remain independent and protect Lebanon’s sovereignty and security.
In Lebanon, the most prominent religious groups share power — the constitution requires the congressional speaker to be a Shiite Muslim, the prime minister a Sunni, and the president a Christian.
Historically, the speaker is a member of Hezbollah, the PM maintains ties with Sunni Saudi Arabia, and the president is from the country’s Maronite Christian minority.
The U.S.-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, an official political party in Lebanon, is arguably the dominant player in Lebanon’s political landscape.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon spokesman argued there are ongoing efforts in Lebanon to prevent U.S.-supplied weapons from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
“The LAF plays a pivotal role in securing Lebanon’s borders,” the DOD spokesman told Breitbart News. “We also support the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is working closely with the LAF to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and ensure all weapons remain under the control of the Lebanese state.”
In 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ auditing arm, found that U.S. embassy officials in Beirut had failed to comply with DOD’s security checklists for military aid provided to the Lebanese military.
“U.S. embassy officials in Beirut have not always used DOD’s required checklists to document compliance with physical security safeguards,” reported the watchdog.
Still, the Pentagon remains committed to arming the Lebanese government forces.
The United States significantly increased security assistance to Beirut following Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 and the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
Referring to U.S. aid to Lebanon, the GAO reported in March 2013:
This assistance included training and equipment funded and implemented by State or DOD for the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces of Lebanon. However, questions remain regarding the effectiveness of security assistance as a tool of U.S. policy in Lebanon, including concerns about the influence of foreign actors, primarily Syria and Iran, and extremist militant groups operating in Lebanon.
Over the past three years alone, the Pentagon has provided $350 million to Lebanon through its train-and-equip fund, including more than $200 million approved by the former President Barack Obama’s administration, reveals Al-Monitor.
According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) — charged with American military activity in the Middle East — total security assistance funding to the Lebanese forces through the Departments of State and Defense Department accounts has exceeded $1.4 billion since 2005.
“The U.S. security assistance program began in 2006 with the withdrawal of Syrian troops, and is focused on providing training and equipment designed to develop the capability of the LAF,” the Pentagon spokesman told Breitbart News.