The arrest Wednesday of a leading figure of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the dismantling of two explosives-laden cars represents a hugely welcome boost to the security atmosphere in Lebanon, and the Army must now be given the support it needs, both physical and psychological, to continue this crackdown.
Completely overstretched and undersupported, the Army has, for the last couple of years, done its best to carry out several different, extremely taxing roles at once. On top of the already arduous task of patrolling the country’s southern border, the Army also now must monitor the north and eastern borders with Syria. It is a frequent mediator between sparring sides in Tripoli and elsewhere, mans checkpoints across the country, helps in emergency situations and directs traffic.
And it does all this amid fierce and largely misdirected criticism, from politicians and the population alike, while working to the highest standards of discipline, without complaint, while also battling the same everyday problems all Lebanese face, under direct threat to soldiers’ personal safety.
In the face of all these obstacles, the Army has shown itself to be committed to the country as a whole and not one particular sect or party. Its preventive measures taken Wednesday will undoubtedly save dozens of lives.
The road ahead will not be without further security threats, but the Army must now be given the wholehearted support, both material and emotional, that it needs to persevere. Lebanon will only be a strong and independent country once it has an army that is the sole, legal armed institution in the land.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2014, on page 7.