U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is a key component of U.S. Lebanon policy to strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty, secure its borders, counter internal threats, and disrupt terrorist facilitation. Key areas of cooperation include border security, maritime security, defense institution building, arms transfers, and counterterrorism.
The LAF historically served as a pillar of stability in a country facing extraordinary challenges, including the presence of the terrorist group Hizballah. The U.S.-LAF partnership builds the LAF’s capacity as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon’s sovereignty. Since 2006, U.S. investments of more than $3 billion to the LAF enabled the Lebanese military to be a stabilizing force against regional threats. This includes the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Lebanon, effective execution of operations against al-Qaeda, expanded control over Lebanese territory along its border with Syria, and mitigating instability as the country endures a severe economic crisis that began in 2019. U.S. security assistance has also enabled the LAF to increase its presence in southern Lebanon to coordinate with the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.
In FY 2021, the United States provided $236 million in combined Department of State and Department of Defense (DoD) military grant assistance. This included $187 million in Foreign Military Financing, $3 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET), and $46 million in DoD-authorized funding.
Since 2014, the Department of State has provided Lebanon with nearly $23 million for IMET. More than 6,000 members of the LAF received training in the United States since 1970, including 120 members in FY 2020. IMET provides professional military education and training to foreign military students and is key to establishing lasting relationships with future leaders. IMET courses increase military professionalization, enhance interoperability with U.S. forces, offer instruction on the law of armed conflict and human rights, provide technical and operational training, and create a deeper understanding of the United States. Funded through the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) appropriation, the Global Defense Reform Program (GDRP) is providing advisory assistance to the LAF Fouad Shehab Command and Staff College to support strategic and joint operations planning through doctrine and curriculum development.
Since the 2014 attack in Arsal by ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, the United States has provided the LAF with aircraft, vehicles, weapons, and other equipment to help secure the country’s borders and conduct counterterrorism operations. In 2017, DoD announced a $120 million assistance package to provide the LAF with a close air support capability that enabled the LAF to operate with internal joint fire support. Additional programs have provided 130 armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTVs) and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMMTs) to support the LAF’s combat logistics capabilities.
The U.S. government has facilitated $1.90 billion in active government-to-government sales cases with Lebanon under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. FMS cases notified to Congress are listed at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website. Recent and significant prior sales include: M1152 HMMWVs, A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, Huey II helicopters, and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, and TOW 2A anti-tank missiles. The full complement of six A-29s was delivered in June 2018.
From 2016 to 2021, the United States also authorized the permanent export of more than $82 million in defense articles to Lebanon via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process. The top categories of DCS cases in Lebanon include Fire Control, Laser, Imaging, and Guidance Equipment ($23 million), Firearms and Related Articles ($12 million), Military Electronics ($11 million.
In September 2021, President Biden approved DoD to draw down up to $47 million worth of U.S. defense articles, commodities, and services to support the LAF and address the LAF’s identified prioritized requirements.
Since 2014, the Institute for Security Governance (ISG) has conducted Institutional Capacity Building (ICB) activities with the LAF to provide Lebanon with the means to integrate, operate, and sustain U.S.-donated capabilities. ICB focus areas include capability planning, logistics, infrastructure, light attack helicopter capability integration, and institutional support to Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Future ICB work is planned in support of maritime security.
Since 2014, the Institute for Security Governance (ISG) has conducted Institutional Capacity Building (ICB) activities with the LAF to provide Lebanon with the means to integrate, operate, and sustain U.S. donated capabilities. ICB focus areas include capability planning, logistics, infrastructure, light attack helicopter capability integration, and institutional support to Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Future ICB work is planned in support of maritime security.
The U.S. Government approved the transfer of three Protector Class Patrol Boats to the Government of Lebanon as excess defense articles (EDA) in May 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is overseeing the refurbishment and delivery of the boats. $10 million of FMF allocated to Lebanon was used to facilitate the transfer of the boats.
With Lebanon, as with other allies and partners around the world, the United States conducts End-Use Monitoring (EUM) to mitigate the risk of unauthorized transfer or use of U.S. technology and equipment. EUM is used to verify the end-use, accountability, and security of defense articles, services, and training provided under grant-based assistance, FMS programs, and DCS from initial request, through delivery, employment, and eventual disposal. The LAF continues to comply fully with all EUM reporting and security requirements.
The United States Interagency Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) Task Force provides training on MANPADS recognition and threats to aviation security, border security, and defense personnel working on the front lines to fight illicit weapons proliferation. Since 2019, the MANPADS Task Force has provided MANPADS recognition and interdiction training to 34 Lebanese security officials.
The United States has invested more than $88.5 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) activities in Lebanon since 1998 and is currently the country’s largest donor in this effort. This includes emergency assistance to reinforce LAF ammunition storage facilities in the wake of the August 2020 Beirut port explosion and institutional support to the Lebanese Mine Action Center, a component of the LAF. Our assistance has enabled partners to clear dangerous hazards deliberately emplaced by ISIS to harm civilians along Lebanon’s border with Syria, remove explosive hazards along the Blue Line, in North Lebanon, and in Mount Lebanon, and provide crucial physical security and stockpile management upgrades to ammunition depots for the LAF. In December 2021, the Lebanese Mine Action Center declared the North Lebanon governorate the first to be free from the threat of explosive hazards. Further information on the U.S. CWD program is documented in our annual To Walk The Earth In Safety report.
The United States conducts the annual military exercise RESOLUTE UNION (formerly Resolute Response) with the LAF. Through this and other engagements the United States has trained more than 32,000 Lebanese troops.
The U.S. Defense Institute for International Legal Studies (DIILS) is currently assisting the LAF in developing a cadre of Legal Advisors who possess the knowledge, skills, experience and access to advise commanders at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of command on issues of international humanitarian law and human rights. In 2015, the LAF created the Directorate of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Human Rights Law (HRL) to oversee LAF compliance with international law, teach IHL and HRL to all service members, and record violations. The Director of that unit has demonstrated a willingness to implement changes that reinforce operational adherence to IHL and HRL but lacks sufficient legal assets to carry out all assigned tasks. DIILS assistance includes reviewing and drafting doctrine and policy to underpin professionalization of a Legal Advisor corps, establishing education, training, and qualification requirements to serve as a Legal Advisor, creating an organic capability for the LAF to train and instruct its Legal Advisors, and equipping a small group of Legal Advisors with knowledge in key areas of law relevant to maritime operations.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.