US, Saudi Arabia Bolster Lebanon’s Weaponry

The United States and Saudi Arabia are boosting Lebanon’s arsenal as the anti-Islamic State coalition moves to confront the jihadist group in the region.

The U.S. also pledged Friday to provide the Lebanese Army with additional aircraft, and it announced an additional $103.8 million in humanitarian aid to assist Lebanon with the refugee crisis.

On a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced nearly $500 million for people and countries hit by Syria’s war, including $250 million to assist refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries.

The U.S. Embassy said Lebanon would receive $103.8 million, which, according to an embassy source, would be channeled into development projects to help both refugees and Lebanese host communities.

Relief aid

The new funding will support projects ranging from improved water and sanitation in Lebanese towns hosting large numbers of refugees, to food assistance and shelter for Syrian refugees.

With this donation, Washington will have contributed $588.8 million to help Lebanon with the refugee crisis since 2012.

The new funding comes in addition to the approximately $19 million in military aid that the U.S. has delivered to the Lebanese Armed Forces in recent weeks following last month’s fighting between the Army and militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front in the northeastern town of Arsal.

U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Hale said on Friday the Lebanese army had received in recent week “accelerated shipments” of armaments, including air-to-surface [Hellfire] missiles.

“These deliveries will help the Army secure Lebanon’s borders and defeat extremist groups that have crossed them,” Hale said after meeting Salam at the Grand Serail.

“It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added, referring to the $1 billion that Riyadh has granted to the Army following the Arsal battles.

Gearing up

The clashes in Arsal have raised concerns that militant groups from Syria sought to bring about a scenario similar to that in Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has seized large swaths of territory. ISIS and the Nusra Front are holding at least 22 soldiers and policemen hostage.

Hale also said that the U.S. was assisting Lebanon’s security forces, saying that Washington last week donated bomb detection tools, explosive safety gear and other equipment to the Internal Security Forces.

He reiterated that Lebanon needed to elect a new president to better confront the ISIS threat. “Left unchecked, [ISIS] threatens your sovereignty, stability and prosperity. Fortunately, Lebanon is not alone in dealing with this threat. And together, we will succeed,” he said.

Lebanon was among 10 Arab countries that backed the U.S. on Thursday in its military campaign against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

Jihadist rebels fighting in Syria kidnapped dozens of soldiers and police from Lebanon in a cross-border attack last month. Two of the soldiers have been beheaded.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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