The US proposes to redirect $67 million in military aid to Lebanon’s armed forces to sustain military personnel as the country struggles with budgetary problems.
The news: The State Department intends to amend the content of previously allocated foreign military aid for Lebanon to include “livelihood support” for members of the Lebanese military, according to a notification sent to Congress, citing economic and social upheaval.
- Livelihood support for (armed forces) members will strengthen operational readiness, mitigate absenteeism, and thus enable LAF members to continue fulfilling key security functions needed to stave off a further decline in stability, said the notification to Congress.
- The United States is Lebanon’s largest foreign aid donor. Officials from the United States had pledged extra support in October.
- In Washington, the news was applauded.
What’s going on: Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician, announced his withdrawal from Lebanese politics this week, allowing the Shi’ite Hezbollah to consolidate its grip on the country.
- Hariri’s departure ushers in a new era in Lebanon’s politics, which is ruled by a system of sectarian power-sharing, and adds to the instability in a country grappling with its worst financial crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
- Moreover, half of Lebanon’s population of 6 million people lives in poverty. According to the World Bank, it is one of the most severe modern depressions, with the currency plummeting by more than 90 per cent and the financial system effectively crippled.
- Discontent has grown within the security forces as Lebanon’s currency has depreciated, lowering troops’ pay.
- Many people have taken on additional jobs, and others have quit.