Publication Date: September 2010
Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service
Research Area: Government; International relations
Coverage: United States
The United States has provided security assistance to Lebanon in various forms since the 1980s, and the program has expanded considerably in recent years. Since fiscal year 2007, the United States has provided more than $700 million in security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) to equip those forces to combat terrorism and secure Lebanon’s borders against weapons smuggling to Hezbollah and other armed groups. U.S. security assistance is part of a broader assistance program designed to foster a stable, independent Lebanese government. Primary components of the assistance program include:
• More than $490 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) designed to support the LAF’s implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
• More than $6 million in International Military and Education Training (IMET) training to reduce sectarianism in the LAF and develop the force as a unifying national institution.
• More than $117 million in Section 1206 funds to move rapidly vehicle spare parts, ammunition, and other basic supplies to the LAF.
• More than $100 million in support for the ISF for training, equipment and vehicles, community policing assistance, and communications.
In 2005, after the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon prompted Syria to withdraw its occupation force and brought an anti-Syrian, pro-Western government to power, the United States increased its assistance to Lebanon. After the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the United States refocused its policy toward building state security forces to enable them to assert control over the entire territory of the country and implement U.N. Security Council resolutions. To that end, the Bush Administration requested and Congress appropriated an expanded program of security assistance. The Obama Administration has maintained this commitment, requesting for FY2011 more than $132 million for the LAF and ISF.
For Congress, there are broader political questions about the purpose and potential limits of U.S. assistance to Lebanon. Some lawmakers are concerned that U.S.-provided equipment will be channeled to Hezbollah, while others suggest that it could be used by the LAF against Israel. At the same time, U.S. leaders and some Members of Congress have questioned whether U.S. policy fully considers the political position of the Lebanese and their elected leaders on issues of national defense.
On August 3, 2010, the LAF opened fire on an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) unit engaged in routine maintenance along the Blue Line, alleging that it had crossed into Lebanese territory. Two Lebanese soldiers, a journalist, and an Israeli officer were killed. Soon after the incident, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) issued a report confirming that the IDF had not been in Lebanese territory. In response, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, chair of the State Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations placed a hold on the FY2010 $100 million FMF appropriation for Lebanon citing the need to “determine whether equipment that the United States provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces was used against our ally, Israel.” It is unclear how current concerns will impact Congressional consideration of the Administration’s FY2011 request for Lebanon. See also CRS Report R40054, Lebanon: Background and U.S. Relations, by Casey L. Addis.