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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What the US should do about the LAF

As many of you undoubtedly know, US assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces has been on hold since the day before the border incident with the IDF. David Schenker has done a detailed analysis of US assistance to the LAF (as bad as they are, giving it up means turning the country over to Hezbullah and Iran), and his come up with measurable standards to which future assistance should be subjected. Here's his bottom line:
But it is also clear that the bar defined by the American vice president has been lowered considerably over the past 15 months. Without some action by the United States that recognizes the profoundly changed circumstances since Biden announced that aid would effectively be conditioned on the composition and the policies of the Lebanese government, any lingering benefits Washington reaps from maintaining the FMF program will disappear.

One way to remedy the situation is for the State Department and congressional appropriators to work out clear, transparent, measurable and verifiable benchmarks by which all sides – including the Lebanese – can evaluate the merit of maintaining assistance to the LAF. The key metric is the relationship between the LAF and Hizbullah.

While some connection between elements of the two institutions is to be expected, especially given the Shi’ite plurality within the LAF, several indicators would provide useful insight into the depth of the relationship. Specifically, going forward, the FMF program should be contingent on a close assessment that measures, among other things:

• LAF response to officers who share intelligence with Hizbullah, “go rogue,” or demonstrate other problematic conduct with regard to the group (e.g., are they disciplined or congratulated?)

• LAF’s role in harboring or otherwise protecting Hizbullah weaponry (e.g., does the LAF play a role in preventing the import of weapons from Syria or their flow south of the Litani or in facilitating it?)

• Flow of personnel between Hizbullah and the LAF (e.g., do officials of Hizbullah’s militia transfer directly into the LAF?)

• Flow of weapons and other material between the LAF and Hizbullah (e.g., does LAF weaponry end up under Hizbullah control?)

• Quality of LAF cooperation with UNIFIL (e.g., do LAF units seem to follow Hizbullah guidance in obstructing the operations of UNIFIL?)

• LAF response to the anticipated indictment of Hizbullah members by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, currently probing the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri (e.g., will the LAF arrest and transfer indicted Hizbullah officials or refuse to implement the tribunal’s request?).
Read it all. If the US is going to keep assisting Lebanon, these standards are a must.


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