Trump administration puts indefinite hold on Lebanon aid
The Trump administration has indefinitely suspended military aid to support Lebanese Armed Forces, a source with knowledge told CNN.
The White House placed an “indefinite implementation hold” on security assistance, including a $105 million package to support the Lebanese Armed Forces, the source told CNN. The source said it did not appear that the State Department or Department of Defense had been looped into the process.
A State Department spokesperson pushed back on the reports about the aid suspension and affirmed support for the Lebanese Armed Forces. At the same time, the spokesperson did not commit to sending military aid to Lebanon in the future.
“The Lebanon (foreign military financing) has been apportioned by the Administration. No Lebanese expenditures or purchases of military material with (foreign military financing) have been delayed,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to secure Lebanon’s borders, defend its sovereignty, and preserve its stability.”
State Department officials have affirmed support for the LAF as “the sole legitimate defense arm of the Government of Lebanon” and as a counter to reliance on Hizbollah, who has been designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization for more than two decades.
In a briefing Friday, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales noted that the US had “worked over the years, over many years, to strengthen the institutions of the Lebanese state, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, to ensure that there is no felt need in Lebanon to rely on any purported services that Lebanon might receive from Hizballah.”
“That has been our policy and that remains our policy,” Sales said.
The State Department spokesperson reaffirmed said Saturday that “the United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to secure Lebanon’s borders, defend its sovereignty, and preserve its stability.”
A senior administration official told CNN Saturday, “We have no decision to announce at this time, nor do we comment on internal deliberations.”
“At this time, we continue to advance (Department of Defense) security cooperation activities with the Lebanese Armed Forces. DoD remains committed to bolstering the LAF’s capabilities, and reinforcing its standing as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement to CNN Saturday.
An initial report from Reuters that the security aid was being withheld came just days after Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri announced he would resign after weeks of nationwide protests. The massive demonstrations were sparked by proposed austerity measures amid the country’s economic crisis.
Despite concerns of economic collapse in Lebanon, a senior State Department official said that there would be no “bailout” for the nation until reforms were implemented.
“There will be no bailout for Lebanon,” the official told reporters on Wednesday.
“They should have done reform and they had plenty of time to do reform and they somehow couldn’t make it happen,” they said.
CNN’s Aaron Pellish, Barbara Starr and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.