Over the last several years, we’ve been teaming up with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Directorate and US civil affairs teams on a whole host of assistance projects. Together, our joint efforts have fostered good governance, brought diverse communities together, and reinforced the LAF’s role as the sole guarantor of security for all of Lebanon. Progress along these lines is good for Lebanon—and in a Middle East marked by intractable conflicts and sectarian clashes, it’s good for the US, also. Understandably, many Americans are not fully aware of how stability in a small country along the eastern Mediterranean shores can impact their security at home. In a modern world hyper-connected by trade and technology, pockets of volatility, if not smartly managed, can spread like wildfire. Unaddressed conflict in the Middle East inevitably has consequences for Europe, which ultimately means less security for a family in Boston. With a few clicks, agents of extremism can go online to spread their ideology and mobilize legions of followers all over the globe. To counter this threat, we must develop more resilient communities at home and tackle these problems abroad. In late April, I attended a conference convened by the CIMIC Directorate in downtown Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. Not even a decade ago, the Directorate did not exist. The proposition that an army in the Middle East would consider establishing a separate command to foster cooperation between the state and local communities is innovative.Now, the Directorate, after implementing nearly 100 civil projects in partnership with numerous local NGOs and municipalities, was convening a major conference to engage supporters and promote its mission. I found the progress extraordinary. Given the event’s importance, SoA, in cooperation with the civil affairs team in Lebanon, helped cover the cost of the branding materials to include folders, notepads, pens, and more. We wanted to reinforce the Directorate’s messaging by showcasing its accomplishments to LAF commanders, international representatives, and potential supporters. By all indications, the conference was a success, drawing scores of foreign officials, defense attachés and the US Ambassador—Elizabeth Richard. In a show of support for the Directorate’s mission, General Joseph Aoun, the commander-in-chief of the LAF, gave the keynote speech. Afterward, I caught up with the Directorate’s commander, Brigadier General Elie Abi Rachid, to congratulate him and his command for pulling off such an impressive feat. We at SoA are proud of our work with the CIMIC Directorate and the US advisory teams in Lebanon. It’s this type of collaborative teamwork—bringing together different actors around shared challenges and common interests—that will yield lasting results. During the conference, as Gen. Abi Rachid spoke, a large backdrop hung behind him. It stated, “Together we work. Together we build. Together we protect Lebanon.” In a world where disputes are no longer restricted by borders, we secure ourselves by assisting our partners.
Zack served in the US Army and Army National Guard from 1997 to 2008, completing four overseas deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.