The United States announced on Wednesday it would provide $72 million as cash stipends to Lebanon’s security forces through a bespoke United Nations program after a currency meltdown slashed salaries, Reuters reported.
Lebanon’s currency has lost about 97 per cent of its value against the dollar since the country’s financial system collapsed in 2019, driving down most soldiers’ monthly wages to around $80.
The military has been squeezed so badly that its canteens stopped serving meat to troops in 2020, and it began offering sightseeing tours in its helicopters to raise cash.
US Ambassador, Dorothy Shea, said the scheme was a “temporary” measure “in light of the urgency of Lebanon’s economic situation”.
Announcing details alongside Lebanese Armed Forces Commander, Joseph Aoun, she said the program would disburse $100 in cash monthly, for six months, to members of the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces.
This came during a news conference held at the UN headquarters in Beirut to launch a Livelihood Support Program for the Lebanese army and Internal Security Forces (ISF) hosted by the UNDP in partnership with the US Embassy in Beirut.
The launching ceremony was also attended by UNDP Resident Representative in Lebanon, Melanie Hauenstein, ISF Director General and Major-General, Imad Osman.
For his part, Aoun said that “The international community’s keenness to preserve the military institutions proves that it will not allow Lebanon to collapse on the security front”, explaining that the repercussions of Lebanon’s collapse are not limited to it as a country, but will have an indirect impact on the regional security environment.
In turn, Osman said the families of the security forces are suffering, just like all Lebanese families, and the six months aid comes in light of a delicate and sensitive situation.
Osman called on “donor countries to help the security forces to continue to protect everyone”.
On 9 September, US President Joe Biden signed a decree allowing Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to grant immediate aid to the Lebanese army, worth $47 million.
Other countries, led by the United States and France, have intensified their military and logistical support to the Lebanese army to strengthen the state’s sovereignty and prevent its collapse.
According to observers, Western countries are looking forward to a greater role for the Lebanese army in the face of the growing capabilities of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.