Washington, D.C. — As the Lebanese military wraps up its largest counterterrorism operation in years, a new report from the Center for American Progress says the U.S. government should not withdraw support from Lebanon’s armed forces, which remain on the front line of the campaign against Islamic State militants.
The offensive launched by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) earlier this month succeeded in killing or ejecting hundreds of Islamic State militants from a stronghold along the border with Syria. The report notes that this success would not have been possible without the long-term support of the United States.
“It would be a mistake to cut and run from more than a decade of investment in the Lebanese military, one of the most effective counterterrorism forces in the region,” said Hardin Lang, CAP senior fellow and co-author of the report.
Continued funding of Lebanese forces has been in question recently over reports of coordination with Iran-backed Hezbollah, which the United States considers to be a terrorist group. The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget zeros out U.S. military aid for the LAF.
While concern over the rising influence of Hezbollah is merited, pulling support for the Lebanese army will only serve to further empower the Iranian proxy at the expense of the country’s legitimate institutions, the report states.
“We need to be clear-eyed about what would happen to Iran’s influence in Lebanon if the United States were to walk away from the country’s most popular institution and a key partner in the campaign against the Islamic State. Who wins if we choose not to compete?” said Lang.
Click here to read the report, “Playing the Long Game: U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance for Lebanon,” by Hardin Lang and Alia Awadallah.
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