Lebanese Information Center (LIC) Statement on the Security Situation in Lebanon and the Role of the Lebanese Armed Forces November 07, 2014
Lebanese Information Centre/USA
Over the past 15 months, Lebanon’s security situation has severely worsened. The country has witnessed a surge in terrorist acts perpetrated by Sunni jihadist groups with links to al-Qaeda, its Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham(ISIS). These attacks have been committed by Lebanese citizens as well as foreigners, including Syrians and Palestinians.
While early attacks targeted largely Shiite neighborhoods and Hezbollah positions, they more recently shifted to target the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which these extremist groups accuse of being aligned with Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. These security incidents include clashes with the LAF, car bombs, and grenades or other explosives launched at LAF positions throughout Lebanese territories. Most notable are last year’s clashes in Saida in the south, August’s fight against militants in the border town of Arsal, and October’s clashes in Tripoli. In all the clashes combined, hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and officers have been injured, over 50 have been killed – including two by beheading – and at least twenty remain kidnapped by Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The toll on civilians, too, has been devastating. Extremist-inspired violence has killed at least 120 civilians, including many children, in the past year and a half. Shops were shuttered, schools were forced to shut down, and livelihoods were destroyed.
For its part, the LAF has acted decisively to confront armed radicals, whether Lebanese, Syrian, or otherwise. Dozens of militants have been killed and many more have been arrested. The LAF has regained control of neighborhoods, towns, and villages, working to expel radical elements from them.
Throughout this difficult time, the Lebanese Information Center has been in contact with government officials, political leaders and military commanders and has remained up to date on developments. Subsequently, the LIC:
Salutes the bravery of the LAF and the many sacrifices of the Lebanese military;
Notes with appreciation the overwhelming political and popular support for the Lebanese army, specifically from the Sunni community and leadership;
Expresses the utmost gratitude to the American people and government for the continuous and unrelenting assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces in matters of equipment, training, and weaponry. This support has exceeded $1 billion in the last eight years, with a recent increase in the rate of delivery so that one shipment reaches Lebanon every week;
Welcomes the commitment of the international community to strengthen Lebanon’s security forces as manifested through the positions and actions of the International Support Group for Lebanon; and
Recognizes the special aid provided to the LAF by Saudi Arabia, France, and the UK.
The LAF remains the ultimate shield in defense of Lebanon and its people against all kinds of extremism. Therefore, it is crucial that the Lebanese military continues to:
Enjoy the confidence and trust of the Lebanese public and polity;
Demonstrate impartiality in dealing with unlawful militias and armed groups, whether Sunni, Shia, Lebanese or aliens; and
Receive the necessary assistance from the friends of Lebanon, chief among them the United States.
However, the LIC simultaneously warns of the attempts by the radical Shia militia of Hezbollah to undermine LAF’s credibility by intervening in the Army’s clashes with Sunni militants; creating and arming local militias in villages; expanding control over Lebanese territory and borders; and sending combatants to fight alongside Assad forces in Syria.
The LIC stresses that there should be no LAF coordination with Hezbollah and Syrian army forces in matters of security, intelligence, or otherwise. The Lebanese state should not tolerate any arming of local groups, particularly those affiliated with the Syrian and Iranian regimes.
Finally, the LIC once again insists that there can never be peace and stability in Lebanon or the region without control of the Lebanese–Syrian borders. It is both long overdue and now an absolute necessity, particularly with the war raging in neighboring Syria, to set a clear timeline for the exclusive control of Lebanon’s eastern borders by the Lebanese armed and security forces, preferably with the contribution of international troops and according to:
The will of the international community as expressed in UN Security Council Resolutions, Presidential Statements, and the recent positions of the International Support Group for Lebanon;
The stated objectives of the US government in its assistance program to the LAF, including in budget justifications and congressional authorizations; and The decision taken by the Lebanese government in July 2012 to deploy Lebanese troops on the eastern border.