Lebanon’s armed forces received three U.S. helicopters worth $26 million on Thursday to help bolster the army’s capabilities to stop Syria’s civil war spilling over its border, during a ceremony at the Beirut Air Base in the presence of interim U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones.
The army also received almost $29 million of British aid as EU countries also step up their support.
The army received from the U.S. nine Huey II choppers worth $26 million, as part of $1.3 billion in security assistance given since 2004, U.S. interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones said.
“Today’s delivery demonstrates America’s sustained commitment to ensure the Lebanese Armed Forces has the support it needs to be the sole defender of the Lebanese territory,” Jones said at the ceremony, according to a statement released by the embassy.
“We have no plans to slow down or alter that level of support,” Jones added.
Fighting between ISIS and al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants often overlaps Lebanon’s mountainous northern border with Syria, where a civil war is now in its fifth year.
Fighters briefly attacked the northern Lebanese town of Arsal in 2014 before retreating to the hills after clashes with the army. Fighting in the border area killed at least 32 Nusra and ISIS fighters this week.
The helicopters will develop the army’s ability to quickly reinforce “remote areas of tension along the border in support of the army’s fight against terrorists”, Jones said.
Lebanon has a frail government and a number of nations support its armed forces to steer away the country, which emerged from its own civil war 26 years ago, from further pressures and destabilizations.
On a visit to Lebanon on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced a further $22 million for border guard training through to 2019 and $6.5 million for general training of 5,000 Lebanese troops. “Lebanon is an important part of the front line against terrorism,” Hammond said.
“We are delighted by the way the UK support is being translated into strengthened border security and is enabling the armed forces to take the fight to Daesh and keep Lebanon safe from the incursions of Daesh,” he said, referring to ISIS.
EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini, who visited Lebanon last week, said that Lebanon’s security was important for Europe’s safety too and the EU was willing to expand its support for the Lebanese armed forces.
In February Saudi Arabia suspended a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army as a response to Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. Nonetheless, the Saudi Kingdom has always stood by Lebanon in desperate times and has repeatedly affirmed its support to the country and its people.