Michael Fallon has met with Lebanese Minister of Defence Samir Mokbel in London as Lebanon plays a role in the counter-Islamic State coalition.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“The spread of terrorism from Daesh represents a threat to us all, and Lebanon is on the front line. Lebanon is an important Defence ally and we have increased our support to help develop the Lebanese Armed Forces so they are able to strengthen their borders and protect their people.”
Fighting from the Syrian Civil War has spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian rebels and Islamic State have travelled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil.
In June 2014, a joint brigade of al-Nusra Front and Islamic State troops invaded and briefly held the town of Arsal, leading to a major battle and hostage taking. It has long been expected that another major push would take place in Lebanon.
A year later, in June 2015, Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed that Islamic State and Nusra had seized territory within Lebanon and that major fighting was going on between them and Hezbullah, as well as each other.
The UK is supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in a number of ways:
- Providing more than £25 million to date for equipment, mentoring and training to help them build and equip three Land Border Regiments (LBRs) operating along the border with Syria. This has been funded by the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
- Deploying around 20 Short Term Training Teams to Lebanon each year, to train the LAF in counter terrorism, search and rescue and military intelligence.
- Committing an additional spend of more than £20m to further bolster LBRs from the threat of the Syria and Iraq conflicts.
- Funding Internal Security and Urban Operations Training, delivered by former UK military, at Hamat Air Base. The UK has spent around £7m on this training and committed a further £4.5m over the next three years. To date, around 7,000 LAF personnel have been trained.
- Offering a range of training courses in the UK including at the Royal College of Defence Studies, Staff Courses at Dartmouth, Sandhurst and Lympstone. Some 30 members of the Lebanese Armed Forces have attended training courses in the UK over the last year.