Hello, Nestled between the Asian and African continents on the eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon has been in the path of invading armies and expanding empires since ancient times. The 18 officially recognized religious groups that inhabit the land bequeath the small country with a disproportionate measure of culture and diversity that has long been its signature, as well as its chief source of instability. Between 1975 and 1990 Lebanon plunged into a brutal religious civil war that left more than 100,000 dead and much of the country in ruins. Since then, Lebanon has avoided another bloody conflict though it continues to struggle to resolve the fundamental sources of its instability, mainly its sectarian construct. In this way, Lebanon is both a beneficiary and a victim of its diversity and array of competing traditions. The civil war in neighboring Syria, the flood of over one million refugees across its borders and the swift rise of ISIS have increased the already tense sectarian pressures. Against this backdrop, districts along the Lebanese-Syrian border have become more volatile, susceptible to illegal cross-border incursions, infiltration by ISIS, and religious violence. With tensions so high, any incident risks creating a domino effect of violence in Lebanon that has consequences far beyond the region. U.S. personnel have been working diligently to develop the capacity of their Lebanese Armed Forces and Lebanese government partners. The focus of this bilateral cooperation has been security in unstable border regions. With the right equipment and proper training, Lebanese security forces can combat illicit activities that destabilize the government and establish a firewall against the spread of ISIS. Critical to that end are essential tools such as fax machines to communicate and coordinate security across government offices and metal detectors and search mirrors to detect illegal weapons and contraband at the border crossings. Working with U.S. personnel, and with your generous support, SoA provided rapid funding for the provision of crucial equipment that was directly put to use on the front lines of the fight against extremism. According to a team member, SoA’s support “allowed our team to improve security in several contested areas throughout Lebanon, enhanced the capability of the local police and strengthen vital relationships between the U.S. and our Lebanese counterparts. The challenges in Lebanon continue, but steady progress is being made.” Thank you for allowing us to make a difference where it is needed most. Zack Bazzi Middle East Project Manager
Zack served in the US Army and Army National Guard from 1997 to 2008, completing four overseas deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.