BEIRUT: A high-ranking Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) delegation is expected to head to the Pentagon next week to set a training, equipping and arming timetable, according to a report published by pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Wednesday. The delegation's expected trip comes just days after US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Hale flew in to Beirut with pledges to provide Lebanon with its "security needs to enable it to protect its lands and people."
On Monday Lebanon and the US signed three military contracts worth $63 million in US grants to the LAF. The grants are aimed at providing the Lebanese Army with secure communications, ammunition and infantry weapons.
Beirut and Washington also set up a joint military commission in charge of organizing their bilateral military relationship.
"We discussed with [President Michel Sleiman] military cooperation between Lebanon and the US in light of the recent meeting at the Defense Ministry in the presence of a joint military commission," Hale said, referring to the Monday meeting between Defense Minister Elias Murr and US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long.
"It is the first time that Lebanon and the US agree on this kind of cooperation," he said. "It is a new kind of long-term cooperation which includes a form of military partnership aimed at facing mutual challenges in fighting terrorism, which is undermining stability in Lebanon."
"We also assured the president that US policy toward Lebanon has not changed ... The US supports a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon which stays away from any form of foreign intervention," the US official added.
Separately, the LAF's commander, General Jean Kahwaji, said that the "latest explosion in Tripoli is a flagrant attempt to strike a blow against the security and stability of the nation."
The Tripoli bus bombing last Monday claimed the lives of four soldiers and three civilians.
In a speech for veterans at the LAF headquarters in Yarze on Wednesday, Kahwaji said that the "attack was intended to undermine internal unity, confuse the army and weaken its domestic role."
However, he added that "the army that succeeded, shoulder to shoulder with the people and the resistance, against Israeli attacks in the summer 2006 war, uprooted terrorism at Nahr al-Bared, and safeguarded peace in the nation's darkest moments will not retreat in the face of sporadic disturbances that are taking place here and there." - The Daily Star