Not only does the Lebanese Army enjoy the respect and love of the Lebanese people for its noble mission of serving and protecting the nation, but also for remaining the neutral, truly patriotic institution throughout Lebanon’s ordeals over the decades.
As Lebanon steps into its 77th independence anniversary, here are some interesting facts about the Lebanese Army.
#1 Its origins go back in time
The Lebanese Army’s local roots extend to the first armed forces formed during the various dynasties that ruled the country, most notably during the Ottoman reign, during which Lebanese troops won the historic Battle of Anjar, despite being outnumbered.
#2 Lebanon celebrates its army on August 1st
On August 1st, 1945, at 00:00 hours, the then-existing Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was placed under the full authority of the National Government. Since then, August 1st is commemorated every year as the Lebanese Army Day.
#3 It ranked 6th in terms of growth
Between the mid-’80s and the start of the 21st century, the number of active military personnel in the Lebanese Army doubled.
This made it the 6th fastest-growing military in the world at the time.
#4 The return to the south
Following the 2006 war with Israel, the Lebanese Army deployed south of the Litani River for the first time since 1978, to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The deployment was celebrated by both locals and the soldiers themselves. “We are so happy. How can someone deploy in his land and not be happy?” a soldier told Reuters at the time.
#5 Its budget doesn’t allow improvement
Unfortunately, the Lebanese Army has lacked a military budget that would allow it to adopt new weapons and equipment for decades.
Its current annual budget, which amounts to $2.5 billion (64th in the world), is mostly spent on logistics equipment, salaries, and other fields that do not include improving its military strength.
#6 It depends mostly on foreign aid for armament
Because the army’s budget is insufficient for armament, it relies mostly on modest donations by foreign states, such as France, the UK, and, most notably, the United States for improvement.
#7 It made an unprecedented decision in 2007
The 2007 Nahr El-Bared conflict between the Lebanese Army and Fatah Al-Islam is one of the army’s most significant and brutal standoffs with terrorism.
During the battle, the army made the historic decision to push into the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr El-Bared to put an end to the terrorists, when it was not allowed to enter Palestinian camps.
#8 One of its officers made history in the UK
In 2010, Naval Sub-Lieutenant Assaad El-Turk participated and excelled in a navy course that included more than 1,000 British and foreign naval officers from around the world.
In the end, he received Queen Elizabeth II’s sword of honor, which is a prize given to the best and most worthy officer. This was the first time in the UK’s naval academy’s history that a non-British officer earns the sword.
#9 Its aircraft was crucial in defeating ISIS
Despite being old, the Lebanese Army’s aircraft played an important role in pushing ISIS terrorists out of Lebanon during the Arsal fighting, by destroying their vehicles and posts with air-to-ground missiles from several kilometers away.
#10 It clashed with Israel to stop it from cutting a tree
On August 3rd, 2010, the Lebanese Army clashed with Israeli forces after the latter attempted to cut down a tree at the border with Lebanon.
The fighting lasted for hours, during which Lebanese Army snipers neutralized a high-ranking Israeli officer, in addition to the rest of the casualties recorded on both sides.
#11 The army contributes efforts to the preservation of Lebanon’s heritage
The Lebanese Army also protects Lebanon’s heritage, by using its capabilities to help maintain its historical sites, such as the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles that was cleaned by soldiers recently.
#12 It started allowing women to join in 1990
By the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990, the Lebanese Army was lacking in manpower and seeking new blood. This coincided with increasing calls by women to be given their right to join the ranks of the army, which they eventually did.
Today, the army has nearly 60 female officers, 3 of whom are Brigadier Generals, and 4,000 female personnel, distributed across its regiments, with some serving on the southern border.
#13 It fights terrorism and organized crime
In addition to its defense mission against external threats, the Lebanese Army has a security mission that entrusts it with maintaining internal peace and stability in Lebanon, alongside the rest of the security forces.
#14 Its soldiers are endearingly and respectfully called “watan” by the people
The Lebanese army is widely loved and respected by the people. For the civilians, a Lebanese soldier embodies what’s most precious to the nation, the homeland, hence the name Watan, commonly used by the civilians to endearingly and respectfully address a soldier of the Lebanese army.