Lebanese Army on armored vehicles patrol the area in Tripoli, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)
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When the head of the Lebanese Army regiment posted in east Lebanon noticed a collection of Syrian refugee tents a mere 50 meters from his encampment in Arsal, he called Col. Youssef Mechref to see what could be done. At that point Mechref, as head of the Civil-Military Cooperation, or CIMIC as it is commonly referred to, had spent three years carrying out what Lebanese standards would deem the Army's most unconventional of operations: delivering humanitarian aid, especially to areas where anti-military sentiments ran high. The head of the regiment explained to Mechref how the refugees might pose a threat to his unit. The idea of conceiving CIMIC within the Lebanese Army was planted by Gen. Claudio Graziano, the former head of mission of UNIFIL, who casually made the suggestion to Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.Graziano suggested the Army might benefit from liaising with the population. In 2012, Kahwagi launched CIMIC, and Mechref was named section head. Mechref has held meetings with many U.N. agencies and prepared a national strategy to guide CIMIC for the next five years.It took the Army some time to understand the benefits of CIMIC, explained Mechref.
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