US helps Lebanon face its pressing security challenges
Highlighting its commitment to promoting stability in Lebanon, the United States of America today revealed approaches to respond to the rising security challenges in the Middle East nation.
In his remarks in Washington DC, Acting Assistant Secretary Lawrence Silverman for Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs House Foreign Affairs Committee said Lebanon faces unique and serious security problems.
Lebanon is known for its un-demarcated and porous border with Syria that offers opportunity for terrorist infiltration in both directions.
In addition, the presence of notorious Hizballah and Syrian crisis have worsened the volatile security situation in Lebanon.
Challenges to security are rising.
According to Mr. Silverman, the existing political and sectarian differences have been intensified by the war in Syria.
He said the Hizballah entered that war against the earlier agreement of all Lebanese parties and the government to “dissociate” the country from foreign conflicts.
“The Lebanese people know only too well the repercussions of spillover from the Asad regime’s brutal suppression of its own people.” – Mr. Silverman
Syrian artillery continue to violate Lebanon’s borders with impunity, killing and wounding Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees alike.
The refugees from Syria have been suffering from the outbreak of war as well.
Hizballah is dragging the Lebanese people into a war
The presence of Hizballah and its alliance to Asad regime have resulted in more conflict, more acts of terror, and more potential instability for Lebanon.
Hizballah’s participation in the war in Syria has also helped to draw foreign fighters both Shia and Sunni to Syria which heightened the risk of radicalized fighters bringing terror back to their home countries.
In addition, extremists fighting the Asad regime and its Hizballah backers have brought that fight inside Lebanon, resulting to more deaths.
How US responds to Lebanon’s security challenges
Highlightig its condemnations to Hizballh’s attacks, the United States pledged its commitment to assist Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces who acted to maintain internal security.
Mr. Silverman noted that the LAF is currently undertaking a major operation in the northern city of Tripoli to help end politico-sectarian clashes and calm tensions.
On the other hand, the security forces are also deploying to the northern and central Bekaa to calm tensions there.
US provides support to the LAF and the ISF and they intend to build their capacities to thwart violent extremists and criminal organizations and to ensure security throughout the country, including control along its borders.
In addition, the US seeks to increase this assistance in order to modernize the LAF, and in particular to provide training and equipment to help defend its borders with Syria.
The assistance includes enhancing LAF’s capabilities to assert control over Lebanese territory.
Since 2007, the U.S. government has provided basic and specialized training for over 8,000 ISF members.
The US is alsp helping to increase ISF effectiveness through training in modern policing practices, in order to enable the ISF to better maintain internal security, a key to helping
Saudi Arabia has committed to provide $3 billion in assistance to the LAF.
Mr. Silverman highlighted that international assistance to the LAF can help build up the capabilities the LAF needs as well.
Terrorism loomsin Lebanon
Extremists fighting the Assad regime and Hezbollah backers have brought their fight inside Lebanon through a wave of reprehensible terrorist attacks that have killed and injured scores in Beirut and other cities.
Incidents of terrorism also increased and threatens security situation in Lebanon with the ongoing dangers from Hezbollah’s support for the Assad regime and the flow of violent extremists, whether they be from the al-Nusra front version in Lebanon, the Islamic state of Iraq in the Levant and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
In addition, Lebanon hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the region, nearly 940,000 or more. With this number of refugees, there is no a single Lebanese community that has not been affected by the refugee crisis.
Swelling number of Syrian refugees crossing Lebanon’s borders
In addition, the turmoil in Syria is forcing more and more people from their homes, with 30,000 people believed to have fled Syria into neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq over the past week alone.
With growing influx of civilians fleeing from conflict, humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.
Reports say up to 1.5 million Syrians are in need of assistance.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that civilians attempting to flee from fighting need urgent assistance and protection.
OCHA reported that aid agencies continue to face significant access constraints to reaching people in need.
In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that it needs additional funds of around $14 million for its response to the crisis in Syria. Along with its partners, UNICEF is providing assistance to Syrian children in need in areas such as health, nutrition, education and child protection.
UN estimates that there are over 1 million Syrians inside Syria in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Of that number, it’s an estimated 300,000 internally displaced.
There are over 66,000 refugees in neighboring countries and there are existing refugees, Palestinian refugees, totaling about 500,000 inside Syria as well as a hundred thousand Iraqi refugees inside Syria.
The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 130,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.