Support: Turning the Lebanese Army Into Tigers


September 7, 2006: The attempt to restore peace in southern Lebanon has unleashed an American effort to revive the Lebanese army. This force of some 70,000 troops, is actually quite large for a country of only four million people (it's about four times as many troops, per capita, as the United States has on duty). But for the last thirty years, the Lebanese army was either non-existent (during 1975-90 civil war), or allowed to languish, lest it become mobilized by one faction or another for a new civil war. But now, Lebanon has a chance to reassert control over the south, which has a fiefdom of the Shia Hizbollah militia for the last two decades. Israel controlled part of the south from 1982 until 2000. But it was Hizbollah who always claimed the south as their own.

The ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon stipulates that Hizbollah will be disarmed. Hizbollah has said they will not, and it's up to the Lebanese army to try and make disarmament happen. To that end, the United States is donating an initial $11 million in military aid, with a lot more to follow if it appears that the U.S. effort is having a positive effect. U.S. trainers have been in Lebanon before the 1975-90 civil war. The Lebanese army is still equipped with a lot of 1970s vintage American helicopters, armored vehicles and trucks. The U.S. is willing to upgrade all that, and bring in new stuff. The key unknown is whether the Lebanese troops will accept some professional training, and guidance in how best to disarm Hizbollah. The Lebanese have accepted the initial American offer, but it is unknown if more will be taken.