UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army Prove Once Again to be a Worthwhile Investment

Monday, April 20, 2020
Opinion by The Hon. Edward M. Gabriel
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UNIFIL forces stationed in Southern Lebanon were able to position themselves on April 15th between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Israeli troops to intervene before tensions broke out. Lebanon charged Israel with crossing the “Blue Line,” the controversial demarcated border between the two countries established in 2000. A “high alert” went out as Lebanese troops faced off with the Israeli soldiers, but UNIFIL intervened before things got out of hand. UNIFIL later stated that there were no infractions over the border.

During a visit in June of 2019, an ATFL delegation visited the LAF Southern headquarters and the Blue Line and were encouraged by what we saw. One critical task was bringing together Israeli and Lebanese military for a meeting every six weeks to discuss infractions and disagreements on the demarcation of the Blue Line, creating an atmosphere of dialogue rather than friction.

In our meetings we learned that UNIFIL conducts an average of 460 operations per day, including 75 with the LAF, to monitor infractions and enable the LAF to extend its operations in the south. We were informed that the LAF is capably carrying out its mandate, limiting infractions from Lebanon to a few minor incidents each month, mostly shepherds crossing the Blue Line. The Israelis are violating Lebanese airspace with more than 100 illegal monthly overflights of planes and drones as well as illegal incursions over the Blue Line for “security” purposes. The LAF requires more support to extend its reach more strongly in the south on land and in the Mediterranean Sea to better conduct operations to keep Hezbollah forces out of the area in line with recent UN resolutions and expectations.

By intervening to prevent an incident that could leader to “unintended consequences,” UNFIL demonstrated that it is a cost effective investment for the US, and that US support for the LAF has resulted in a capable, professional, competent, and American trained force when addressing its issues on the Lebanon’s borders.