In less than nine months, if the current political deadlock in Lebanon persists, the management of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), a pivotal sector in the country's security, will transition to interim management. This pattern follows that of many other affected official institutions due to the presidential vacancy.
Fundamental Christian factions have declined to make appointments in the absence of a president.
Nine months from now, give or take a week, the General Director of Lebanon’s ISF, Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, will reach the retirement age.
The notion of a vacuum doesn't exist in the realm of security; instead, there are makeshift measures that institutions resort to in order to fill the void.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that things will return to complete normalcy after this date, despite Othman’s attempt to instill a sense of reassurance.
“The institution is capable of continuing its duties; it is brimming with competencies,” Othman assured Asharq Al-Awsat.
Othman believes that Lebanon’s security forces are capable of persisting due to the mentality guiding its members and the discipline on which they are raised.
“There is a strong sense of responsibility, and that alone justifies the continued operation of the security forces despite all the challenges that Lebanon has faced since 2019, referring to the financial crisis that has hit the country and pushed the national currency’s exchange rate to unprecedented levels, consequently affecting the purchasing power of military salaries in general,” explained Othman.
The most compelling motivation for their continuity, however, lies in “the security forces’ understanding that there are those who desire to take their place and those who seek chaos instead of stability.”
“Our lives are built on caution against the unknown,” added Othman.
Moreover, the security forces had established a centralized administration for security decisions.
They formed mobile units to counter rioting, military forces for security intervention, and an information division for combined technical and military intervention.
Meanwhile, the small precincts dispersed throughout the country serve as vigilant eyes and ears, receiving complaints and preparing to address them.
Othman also expressed significant concern regarding the situation of the security forces due to “clear targeting.”
He doesn’t provide extensive details, but he said: “I sense a threat to the institution.”
“There are those who target it because it upholds security in the country.”
“I don't want to go into specifics, but there is a direct and unjustifiable targeting of the security forces.”
“However, this is an institution that has been around for over 160 years, and ending its role is not an easy task,” affirmed Othman.
Othman asserted that the security situation is under control.
He goes even further, affirming that the security situation is “stable.”
“We are pursuing crime and are capable of managing it,” he said.
“However, there are other diverse issues, such as security hotspots emerging in certain areas, taking on a military character, like the Palestinian camps where sporadic fighting occurs,” noted Othman.
Additionally, Othman points to another significant security concern, which is the Syrian displacement, with apprehensions that “security concerns might escalate due to it.”
“There are many crimes linked to the Syrian presence. This places pressure on the security forces and the prison infrastructure in Lebanon, as the number of Syrian prisoners is now approaching a third of the total prison population,” he explained.
“About 17.8% of convicts are Syrian and 43% of detainees are Syrian,” revealed Othman.
In short, Othman affirmed that crime control is very effective, but the danger lies in the political impact on security.
It’s usually difficult for a security figure to openly discuss politics, but the impression left by visitors to Othman suggests a profound dissatisfaction with the “casualness” with which some politicians approach security matters and their lack of concern for avoiding “red lines” as long as it benefits them.