Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CENTCOM Commander General Votel Visits Lebanon

August 23, 2016
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Joseph L. Votel visited Lebanon today as part of a multi-stop tour of the Middle East.  General Votel met with Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander General Jean Kahwagi and other key leaders of the Armed Forces.  He also observed Lebanese marine commando exercises at Amchit military base.  During his meetings with the LAF, General Votel reaffirmed the Lebanese-American partnership in countering the threat of terrorism and reiterated the United States' long term commitment to supporting the LAF in its role as the sole defender of Lebanon. 
General Votel made the following remarks to press from Amchit:
"Good afternoon.  I'm very pleased to be back here in Lebanon.  The partnership between our countries is a strong and a very important one.  
In April, I observed the G2 Strike Force and Rangers conduct a hostage rescue demonstration and was very impressed.  Today, I observed the Armed Forces' marine commandos in action and was equally impressed.  As I have heard repeatedly from American military trainers here, the Lebanese Armed Forces are second to none.  Their skills, professionalism, dedication to duty, and commitment to defend their country are unsurpassed.  Whether through cooperating in joint military exercises - like the recent Resolute Response 2016 exercise - or through the delivery of weapons and equipment that serve to further enhance the capability of the Lebanese Armed Forces, America is proud to support Lebanon's brave military members who risk their lives every day to keep this country safe.
The LAF continue to do an extraordinary job in confronting extremist threats arising from across the Syrian border.  The Force has demonstrated to enemies and friends alike that they are strong, fully capable of defending Lebanon's borders, and have the support of the Lebanese people.  The will and commitment of the LAF to protecting Lebanon only strengthens America's resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Lebanese partners as we confront these threats together.
The LAF is a strong institution, and America has been and will continue to be the army's steadfast and foremost security partner.  The U.S. has provided over $1.4 billion dollars in security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces since 2005.  That includes critical training and equipment, such as the $50 million in Humvees, weapons, and ammunition delivered to the Army earlier this month at the Beirut Port.  We continue to work closely with the LAF to ensure that the equipment being delivered is exactly what is needed to counter the extremist threat and ensure Lebanon's long-term stability.  We look forward to our continued collaboration and to further strengthening our enduring partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces in the days ahead.  Thank you." 

Monday, August 22, 2016

U.S. Military and Lebanese Armed Forces Conclude Joint Military Exercise

August 17, 2016
Today, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Army concluded Resolute Response 2016, an annual, bilateral military exercise with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) involving explosive ordnance disposal, diving exercises, and maritime vessel visit, board, search and seizure procedures.  The exercise ran from August 8-17 at Jounieh Naval Base and included both land and sea-based exercises. 
Resolute Response is one of more than 60 military exercises conducted by U.S. Central Command with partner nations each year.  The exercise provided an opportunity for U.S. military subject matter experts to share information and best practices with their Lebanese counterparts in order to increase soldiers' proficiency in these areas.  It is another example of America's continuing partnership with Lebanon, and our commitment to building the LAF's readiness and capabilities as it protects Lebanon's borders from extremist threats.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

America Delivers $50 Million in Humvees, Weapons, and Ammunition to the Lebanese Army

August 9, 2016
Today, American Ambassador Elizabeth H. Richard presided over a major delivery of U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) at the Beirut Port.  The shipment, valued at $50 million, provides the LAF with an additional 50 armored Humvees, 40 Howitzer field artillery pieces, 50 MK-19 grenade launchers, and one thousand tons of ammunition,  including small, medium, and heavy artillery rounds.  Ambassador Richard was accompanied by Brigadier General Manuel Kirejian, LAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Equipment, at the event.  This latest shipment demonstrates America's sustained commitment to providing the LAF with the support it needs as it continues to bravely defend the Lebanese people and territory in the face of extremist threats. 
Ambassador Richard made the following statement at the delivery:
"Good morning, everyone. I am delighted to be here with General Kirejian at this ceremony today. The United States is Lebanon's top security partner. In this year alone we provided over $221 million in equipment and training to the Lebanese security forces. I'd also like to point out that Lebanon is the 5th largest recipient of United States foreign military financing in the world. That shows the level of our commitment here.
What we're doing today is receiving an entire ship full of equipment that will help the Lebanese Armed Forces fight the fight against extremists and defend the country's border. Some of the equipment that you see around behind you will help Lebanese soldiers move safely around their area of responsibility.   Some of this equipment will let them take the fight to the enemy, helping them go on the offensive.  What we have here today is approximately $50 million in equipment – there are 50 Humvees, 40 Howitzers, 50 grenade launchers, and over 1,000 tons of ammunition.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to say that this is a partnership. We are absolutely inspired by the dedication and the determination of Lebanese soldiers. Ordinary people who go out every day to put their lives on the line to defend the Lebanese people and to defend the country. We are also very impressed by the Lebanese Armed Forces' planning leadership, and the extent to which they have thought through what it is that they really need to succeed. We have tried very hard to respond to (those requests) quickly.
The last thing I wanted to say is the delivery today is substantial.  It reflects not only our dedication to stand with Lebanon in the fight of today.  We are going to stand with you today, and we're going to stand with you well into the future as you stand against extremism, and as you stand to defend the way of life that Lebanon knows and loves. So again, we're very happy to be here today with our partners.  
Thank you very much for coming today.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

CENTCOM Counternarcotics Policy Director Visits Lebanon

August 3, 2016
The Office of the Secretary of Defense's (OSD) Policy Director for CENTCOM Counternarcotics, Mr. Bob Vierkant, visited Lebanon from July 31-August 3 to observe ongoing counternarcotics training for Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) units conducted by the United States.  Mr. Vierkant and the OSD delegation met with several LAF units who regularly conduct counternarcotics operations in order to observe efforts and training.  The visit underscores the United States' continuing support for the LAF's efforts to secure Lebanon from threats, including the threat presented by the illegal narcotics trade.

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Lebanon Travel Warning

July 29, 2016

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnapping, and outbreaks of violence near Lebanon's borders with Syria and Israel. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept the risks of remaining in the country and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 11, 2015.

There is potential for death or injury in Lebanon because of terrorist bombings. Violent extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including Hizballah, ISIL (Da'esh), ANF, Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB). The U.S. government has designated all of these groups as terrorist organizations. ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon, and these groups are active throughout Lebanon. U.S. citizens have been the targets of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity remains, as does the risk of death or injury as a non-targeted bystander.

Sudden outbreaks of violence can occur at any time in Lebanon, and armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders and in Beirut. On June 27, 2016, a series of blasts caused by suicide bombers in Qa'a, a town along Lebanon's northeastern border killed five people and injured many others. On the evening of June 12, 2016, an explosion occurred outside a commercial bank in the central Beirut area of Verdun, causing major damage to the building and injuring two people. On November 12, 2015, twin suicide bombings in a commercial and residential area of the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood in Beirut's southern suburbs killed 43 people and wounded 239 others. ISIL claimed responsibility for the bombings. The Lebanese Armed Forces are routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.

The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens in the country against sudden outbreaks of violence. Protesters have blocked major roads to gain publicity for their causes, including the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Access to the airport may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates. Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. In Tripoli, the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen remain tense. Armed clashes have resulted in deaths and injuries in these neighborhoods in the past, and there are potentially large numbers of weapons in the hands of non-governmental elements. Celebratory gunfire in Lebanon has resulted in accidental injuries and deaths. The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services can be severely limited.

Kidnapping, whether for ransom, political motives, or family disputes, is a problem in Lebanon. A U.S. citizen was kidnapped in a family dispute in January 2016. Suspects in kidnappings sometimes have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations. The U.S. government's ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to hostage takers. U.S. law also makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations.

Clashes between Lebanese authorities and criminal elements continue to occur in areas of the Bekaa Valley and border regions. The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region. There have been episodic clashes between the Lebanese Army and Syrian-based extremists along the border with Syria since August 2014. On March 24, 2016, a roadside bomb targeting a Lebanese Armed Forces patrol killed a Lebanese soldier and wounded several others in Lebanon's restive northeast border town of Arsal. On November 5, 2015, a deadly blast ripped through Arsal, killing at least four people and wounding several others. The November attack, caused by a suicide bomber using a motorbike, targeted a meeting in the al-Sabil neighborhood of the Committee of Qalamoun Scholars. The next day, a Lebanese Armed Forces patrol in al-Sabil was targeted by a roadside explosive device.

U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor political and security developments in both Lebanon and Syria. There have been incidents of cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, resulting in deaths and injuries. There have been reports of armed groups from Syria kidnapping or attacking Lebanese citizens living in border areas.

There are border tensions to the south with Israel, and the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid this border. In January 2015, hostilities between Israel and Hizballah flared in the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms area, and the potential for wider conflict remains. South of the Litani River, Hizballah has stockpiled large amounts of munitions in anticipation of a future conflict with Israel. In the past, there have been sporadic rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel in connection with the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. These attacks, normally consisting of rockets fired at northern Israel, often provoke a prompt Israeli military response. The rocket attacks and responses can occur without warning. Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where fighting was intense during the civil war. More than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured by unexploded ordnance since the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war. Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.

Hizballah maintains a strong presence in parts of south Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and areas in southern Lebanon. Hizballah has been the target of attacks by other extremist groups for their support of the Asad regime in Syria.

Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States operate autonomously in formal and informal refugee camps in different areas of the country. Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in shootings and explosions. On April 12, 2016, a car bomb explosion killed a senior Palestinian official near the Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the southern port city of Sidon. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to refugee camps.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of traveling on airlines that fly over Syria. Commercial aircraft are at risk when flying over regions in conflict. We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens considering air travel overseas evaluate the route that their proposed commercial flight may take and avoid any flights that pass through Syrian airspace. U.S. government personnel in Lebanon have been prohibited from taking flights that pass through Syrian airspace.

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice. These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country, especially to parts of metropolitan Beirut, Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley, refugee camps, and southern Lebanon.

In the event that the security climate in Lebanon worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon. The Embassy does not offer protection services to U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition, and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place from Lebanon in 2006, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist, and they are not guaranteed even when commercial travel options are limited or non-existent. Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs. U.S. citizens in Lebanon should ensure that they have valid U.S. passports, as lack of documentation could hinder U.S. citizens' ability to depart the country. U.S. Legal Permanent Residents should consult with the Department of Homeland Security before they depart the United States to ensure they have proper documentation to re-enter. Further information on the Department's role during emergencies is provided on the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website.

For more information: