Former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham Elected Chairman, Former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel Elected President and CEO
July 1, 2014 (Washington, DC) – The American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL) Board of Directors has elected SpencerAbraham, former Secretary of Energy and United States Senator from Michigan, as Chairman; and longtime member and former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel as President and CEO. The two will lead ATFL in its mission to support a peaceful and democratic Lebanon, and are renewing urgent calls for humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, whose numbers have reached more than 1 million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“I am honored to work with such an inspiring group of leaders in the Lebanese-American community,” said Secretary Abraham. “Former ATFL Chairman Ambassador Thomas Nassif and former President Peter Tanous made important strides in strengthening Lebanon’s institutions and advocating support for the country’s sovereignty. We must continue this critical work to ensure that Lebanon weathers the worsening Syrian crisis and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) challenge in the region.”
“The ATFL’s work is more important than ever given instability in the region and the tremendous pressure of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon,” said Ambassador Gabriel. “It is in America’s—and the world’s—best interests to support a free and stable Lebanon, and mitigating the refugee crisis is a top priority in that regard.”
The ATFL was founded by prominent Lebanese Americans in 1987 and incorporated in 1989, and has since worked to connect Americans of Lebanese heritage, and promote the national unity, security, and prosperity of a free and democratic Lebanon. The group was instrumental in the 1990s in urging the US to lift its 9-year travel ban on Lebanon, and has undertaken a number of humanitarian initiatives, including cluster-bomb clearance and demining efforts and purchasing 13 ambulances, with challenge matches, for the Lebanese Red Cross.
Since violence broke out in Syria three years ago, the ATFL has been actively monitoring the humanitarian crisis caused by an influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon. UNHCR registers roughly 12,000 new Syrian refugees weekly in Lebanon, and at 1,117,095, the number of refugees now amounts to about a quarter of the Lebanese population.
“We began sounding the alarm bells three years ago, when it was clear that the war in Syria would not cease any time soon, and the refugees began flooding into Lebanon,” said Secretary Abraham. “The numbers were alarming then; they are potentially destabilizing now.”
Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the ATFL has worked to raise awareness of the refugee situation, hosting a symposium with The Wilson Center, meeting with members of Congress and the State Department, traveling to the tented refugee settlements in Lebanon, and urging the US to increase assistance for the refugees and the Lebanese communities that host them.