Military experts see the ongoing fourth regional conference, organized by the Lebanese Army, and the approaching Rome conference as signs of internal and foreign agreement to support the military and prepare it for a more pivotal role in the future.
“The Army’s success in imposing security and stability across the country is considered one of the factors that will facilitate the election of a new president,” a Western source told The Daily Star.
“Holding these two conferences is an indication to an international and local consensus to support the Army and enable it to play pivotal roles in the upcoming stage amid regional turmoil that may reflect negatively on the country which is already exposed to all types of security incidents,” a military source told The Daily Star.
A preparatory meeting for the Rome conference was held Thursday with the Army’s chief of staff Maj. Gen. Walid Salman, who represented the Lebanese side. “The meeting ... was more technical than advisory and saw participants discuss the challenges that faced the Lebanese Army in light of the international threat embodied in the rise of the terrorism wave,” the source said.
The source explained that peace in Lebanon had become an urgent need for the country’s friends and allies as it is also a base for the region’s stability, despite the fact that recent political developments in several Arab countries do not hold much promise of imminent calmness.
As a major security crackdown aimed at ending years of Syria linked violence continues in the north and the Bekaa Valley, Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi pledged to continue “fighting terrorism and dismantling takfiri networks.”
“We promised a year ago ... to work on preventing Lebanon from becoming a battlefield for terrorists,” he said at the inauguration of the conference Wednesday at BIEL in Downtown Beirut.
He said Lebanon needed international assistance to deal with the fallout from the war in Syria and the escalating refugee crisis.
He also said the Army would continue to combat terrorism despite the “major sacrifices of our soldiers and officers.”
The security source agreed with Kahwagi’s comments, and noted that the Army was being supported because it is a diverse institution, a fact that protects it against internal divisions and from political, sectarian and partisan incitement.
Commenting on a $3-billion Saudi donation to the Army, the source said the armament committee had convened several times over the last two weeks at the Army command at the Defense Ministry in Yarzeh after the donation was approved. The committee has determined the Army’s needs based on the five-year plan to boost the Army’s capabilities that was adopted by the previous Cabinet. Under the grant, France will provide the Army with the weapons.
However, it might take some time for France to meet these needs as the relevant authorities in Paris prepare the necessary arms, manufacture them or get them ready to be shipped.
The French authorities have pledged to provide any training sessions needed to allow Lebanese soldiers to use the new weapons and equipment.
The source denied that the French authorities had made any conditions in return for the delivery.
“We realize that our priority now is to confront terrorism and uproot it, and we hope to deal properly with the security deterioration in the region, especially on the northern and eastern borders with Syria. All this without forgetting the main task on the southern borders with the Israeli enemy as we plan to replace one day the international peacekeepers on the borders there,” the source said.