BEIRUT: The United States is expediting assistance to the Lebanese Army, Ambassador David Hale said Thursday, as part of Washington's longstanding commitment to Lebanon.
"U.S. military assistance will begin arriving in the next few weeks and will continue in the months to follow," Hale said after meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel ahead of a Cabinet meeting Thursday morning. "This assistance will enhance the Lebanese Army's ability to secure Lebanon's borders, protect Lebanon's people and fight extremist groups."
Hale said the coming deliveries, made in response to a request from Lebanon for emergency assistance, would include munitions and ordnance, of a defensive and offensive nature.
The envoy highlighted Washington's commitment to the stability of Lebanon, saying the U.S. had donated $1 billion to the Lebanese Army since 2006.
"We continue to stand with Lebanon and the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces as they protect Lebanon from the spillover of violence from Syria," he said.
Hale's pledge comes two days after U.K. Ambassador Tom Fletcher met with Salam to make a similar commitment.
The increased support to the Army, which follows a $1 billion donation from Saudi Arabia, comes in the wake of fighting that pitted the Army and takfiri militants from Syria’s Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the border town of Arsal in east Lebanon.
The worst spillover yet from the more than 3-year-old Syrian civil war, the clashes killed at least 19 soldiers, 60 militants and more than 15 civilians.
Before heading into the Cabinet meeting, a Hezbollah minister welcomed the aid from Washington, which considers the resistance party a terrorist organization.
"Hezbollah welcomes any donation to arm and reinforce the military," Minister of State Mohammad Fneish told reporters.