Lebanese soldier waits near heavy machine guns distributed by the US Army. 5 May, 2017. (Photo credit: Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The US embassy in Lebanon announced on 25 January that Washington will provide $72 million to Beirut to boost the salaries of members of the army and police for six months in a joint program with the UN Development Program (UNDP).
“[The program] will provide $72 million in temporary financial support for Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces personnel,” a joint statement by the UN agency and the US embassy reads.
The statement added that the UNDP will disburse the funds through a local service provider.
“These payments will provide every soldier and police officer eligible to receive assistance under US law with $100 per month for a period of six months,” the statement added.
US ambassador Dorothy Shea claimed in the statement that this was “the first time the United States has ever provided such financial support to security forces in Lebanon.”
Since 2006, the White House has been a key donor to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), providing over $3 billion in military aid.
An average monthly salary for a low-ranking LAF soldier is worth roughly $50, down from about $800 before the manufactured economic crisis of 2019.
LAF Commander – and presidential hopeful – General Joseph Aoun said in a statement the US package proves the international community “will not allow Lebanon’s collapse on the security front.”
Aoun also thanked the US and UN for backing “troops and their families” in a country “on the verge of collapse.”
According to several reports, the LAF commander is the preferred choice of the US, France, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to be named Lebanon’s president.
In December, Qatar offered financial aid for the crisis-hit nation in exchange for seeing Aoun named president. Aoun is also a close ally of US ambassador Shea, as ahead of last year’s elections, the US envoy sought to delay the polls to better position Aoun to become president.
Since 2019, the Levantine nation has been shouldering what the World Bank describes as the world’s worst economic crisis in the past 150 years, caused by rampant corruption in the financial sector.
As part of this crisis, the LAF, under Commander Aoun, has been almost entirely reliant on donations from the US, Qatar, and the EU to pay for soldiers’ salaries.