BEIRUT — U.S. President Joe Biden has cleared $47 million in military aid to Lebanon, but as an expert explained to Defense News, this doesn’t mean the Lebanese Armed Forces will receive that amount.
Under sections 552(c)(2) and 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Biden authorized the secretary of state to “direct the drawdown of up to $25 million in commodities and services from the inventory and resources of any agency” and “direct the drawdown of up to $22 million in defense articles and services from the Department of Defense” to support Lebanon’s military, per a Sept. 7 statement from the White House.
However, “the drawdown authority does not constitute aid in and off itself, and the LAF has not been allocated $50 million in aid,” said Aram Nerguizian, senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, rounding up.
“What it does mean is that the president has instructed the U.S. government interagency to make excess defense items available to the LAF,” he added. “This is not aid in an account like [Foreign Military Financing]. Sections 552(c)(2) and 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act just instructs the U.S. interagency to assess what excess items are available, to make such items available for transfer to the LAF, and only if the items are releasable and line with the requirements of the LAF and U.S. interests more broadly.
“As a result, it is too early to say exactly what the value of aid is here in real-world terms, let alone which offset items are or are not available to the LAF. That picture will grow much clearer in the days and weeks ahead.”
He said the challenge is in aligning the needs of the LAF with what might become available, and that whatever is available actually meets the needs of the LAF.
“I know there are folks in the U.S. interagency that are highly motivated to assist the LAF [in getting] through this funding crisis,” Nerguizian said, referring to Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis.
The American government previously provided Lebanon $216 million in military grant assistance in fiscal 2020, according to the U.S. State Department. This included $105 million in foreign military financing, $3 million in international military education and training, and $108 million in funding authorized by the Pentagon.
Under a bilateral security cooperation agreement, the U.S. has also provided the Lebanese Army with weapons, ammunition and equipment to help it carry out operational and logistical tasks.
The latest assistance is unconditional, according to Lebanese Army Command’s Directorate of Orientation.
“The immediate assistance comes from outside the context of regular military aid, during the harsh economic conditions that Lebanon is going through, and the need to support the military in these circumstances, to maintain its readiness to face the imminent challenges and continue to implement the tasks entrusted to it,” the directorate said in a statement to Defense News.
“It was allocated without previous request or negotiations, but as a result of the U.S. administration’s awareness of the necessity to support the Army at this stage. We do not know if it will be followed by additional aid.”
Agnes Helou is a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.