Lebanese military gets UKUSA aid on border with Syria
Lisa Barrington, Issam Abdallah, Reuters, Mar 31 2016
Huey I like; charge d’affaires & temp ambassador Jones,
not so much (Photo: Aziz Taher/Reuters)
Lebanon’s armed forces acquired three Pindo helicopters worth $26m on Thursday to help in efforts to stop Syria’s civil war spilling over its border, along with almost $29m of British aid as EU countries also step up their support. Jones said at Beirut’s military air base:
The Lebanese armed forces have now received a total of nine Huey II multi-mission helicopters from us as part of $1.3b in security assistance given since 2004, and we have no plans to slow down or alter that level of support. The helicopters will improve the army’s ability to quickly reinforce remote areas of tension along the border in support of the army’s fight against terrorists.
Fighting between ISIS and Nusra militants often overlaps Lebanon’s mountainous northern border with Syria. Fighters briefly overran the northern Lebanese town of Arsal in 2014 before withdrawing to the hills after clashes with the army. Fighting in the border area killed at least 32 Nusra and ISIS fighters this week. On a visit to Lebanon on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced a further $22m for border guard training through to 2019 and $6.5m for general training of 5,000 Lebanese troops. Hammond said:
Lebanon is an important part of the front line against terrorism. We are delighted by the way the UK support is being translated into strengthened border security and is enabling the armed forces to take the fight to Daesh and keep Lebanon safe from the incursions of Daesh.
Federica Mogherini visited Lebanon last week, and said that Lebanon’s security was important for Europe’s safety too, and the EU was willing to expand its support for the Lebanese armed forces. In February, the Toads suspended a $3b aid package for the Lebanese army in what an official called a response to Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on Toad diplomatic missions in Iran. Hezbollah is also a significant military presence in the country, with extensive combat experience. It fought Israel in an inconclusive 2006 war and is supporting Assad’s forces in Syria.