SoA has been active in Lebanon for the past two years, supporting multiple lines of effort aimed at bolstering the country’s stability and security. Bordered by Syria and Israel and host to more than one million Syrian refugees, Lebanon holds a vital spot in the region’s security matrix. This has been especially true in recent years as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has attempted to infiltrate the country.
Holding the line against external encroachment and internal discord is an institution that enjoys the confidence of Lebanese across the spectrum of the 18 officially recognized religious groups – the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Due to its strong legitimacy in Lebanese society, the LAF fulfills two core functions: chief defender against external aggression, and guardian of internal stability. A robust, professional force that is representative of every community it is entrusted with protecting, the LAF has played a leading role in rebuffing the Islamic State from Lebanese territory. Over the last two years, SoA has funded more than half a dozen projects, directly supporting the LAF’s mission and advancing security efforts in the region.
Earlier this year, SoA teamed up with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs team in Lebanon and the LAF Civil-Military Cooperation Directorate to provide winter blankets for low-income Lebanese families in Arsal, a town located near the border with Syria. The SoA-purchased blankets allowed the LAF to communicate on closer terms with the community in Arsal and address their immediate needs. SoA believes that advancing good governance and connecting LAF leaders with influential figures in Arsal community contributes to understanding and eventually confronting the root causes of radicalization in the area.
In the same vein, we worked alongside US advisory teams to improve the capacity of Lebanese security forces. Based on local needs, we contributed a robust assistance package that included computers, monitors, data storage, and other communications devices. With the SoA-contributed equipment, Lebanese Army officers can now collectively plan missions and coordinate activities in a centralized location. In a recent visit to the LAF facility, a Lebanese officer told me, “Thanks to you, we can now plan in a central, secure facility. Before, everyone was using their personal computer in their own office. Now, we work together under one roof. This makes us more effective.”
By design, SoA’s comprehensive approach in Lebanon parallels US efforts to diminish and ultimately erase the Islamic State’s footprint in the country. Our projects with the US Army civil affairs teams address the drivers of extremism while the assistance we provide to the security forces addresses the threats extremism presents. Our CEO, Jim Hake, recently summed up our strategy thus:
“Aside from our work in Syria and Iraq, which takes direct aim at ISIS, we are making significant investments in countries like Lebanon that are not yet in serious conflict but are in significant danger of it. Supporting the Lebanon-based US teams and the LAF is our way of investing in the stability of the region.”
Project Manager, Middle East