The US raised the level of its military assistance to Lebanon, saying on Wednesday that it was providing it with six MD 530G light attack helicopters, six Scan Eagle drones, and communication and night vision equipment.
Sources said that the visit of Commander of the US Central Command (Centcom) General Joseph Votel to Lebanon’s Army chief General Joseph Aoun on Wednesday is the third since Aoun assumed power this year.
“A relationship of trust has been built between Washington and the Lebanese military institution, including Aoun. Such trust enhances Washington’s enthusiasm to increase its military assistance to the army,” the sources said.
Hisham Jaber, the head of the Middle East Center for Studies and Public Relations, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that the new package is the largest US military assistance offered in a single batch to Lebanon in decades.
He said the assistance would enhance the capabilities of the Lebanese military to protect the border and fight terrorism.
“Lebanon’s aerial defensive capacities lack any attack helicopters,” he said.
Jaber, who is a retired Lebanese general, said that MD 530G helicopters would constitute a supplement to the mission of the Super Tucano that Washington had offered to Lebanon.
“Those helicopters will match the mission of the ground forces by supporting them with gunfire,” he said.
After visiting Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday with Votel, US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard said: “We had an excellent conversation about the challenges facing Lebanon and the region. We also talked about how the US and the broader international community can support Lebanon in these challenging times.”
Richard and Votel also discussed with the Prime Minister and earlier with the Army Commander, three new US Department of Defense programs valued at more than $120 million.