06 May 2017
BEIRUT: The United States delivered over 1,000 new machine guns to the Lebanese Army Friday, as part of an effort to bolster security along Lebanon’s border. During the handover ceremony, held at the Army’s Logistic Brigade headquarters in Kfar Shima, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard highlighted “the important role the Lebanese Armed Forces play in addressing the serious challenges Lebanon faces.”
The equipment included 800 heavy machine guns and 320 other crew-served weapons.
A statement released by the embassy said that the weapons would be used to increase the Army’s defensive capabilities along the Syrian border, and to improve the Land Border Regiments’ ability to effectively defend their positions.
“We are confident [that the weapons] will be directly employed to protect and defend Lebanon’s borders, and by the very nature of that act, Lebanon’s most valuable asset: its people,” Richard said.
She also noted that the shipment was part of an ongoing U.S. program to improve the capabilities of Lebanese security forces, and to increase the Army’s ability to “carry out its mission as the sole defender of Lebanon.”
“We recognize that the challenges facing Lebanon are serious,” she said. “Many of them emanate from outside your borders. But the Lebanese are strong, as you have proven over and over through history.”
This recent shipment of aid comes on the heels of two separate deliveries of U.S. military hardware made to Riyaq Air Base in the Bekaa Valley in the past month.
Those deliveries, reportedly of heavy weapons and artillery, arrived as the Army intensified its targeting of militants along the country’s northeastern border.
The Army has regularly attacked positions of Daesh (ISIS) and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – formerly known as the Nusra Front – near the Lebanese towns of Arsal and Ras Baalbeck, since the militant groups launched a major attack in that area in 2014.
Militants briefly overran Arsal and took more than 30 Lebanese soldiers hostage. Though most of the captives were eventually released, nine remain unaccounted for.
The Army and security forces have also been increasingly cracking down on militant sleeper cells, as part of a comprehensive security plan for the Bekaa Valley.
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