The United States is allocating $72 million in aid to Lebanon to help increase the salaries of its soldiers and internal security.
This marks the first time that the U.S. has allocated funds specifically for the wages of security personnel in Lebanon. The U.S. has been a significant donor to the Lebanese Army, providing over $3 billion in military aid since 2006.
According to the World Bank, the economic crisis is among the worst in the world since the 1850s.
Lebanese leaders have failed to implement economic reforms, and the economic meltdown has also affected Lebanese soldiers and security officers.
Before the crisis, an enlisted soldier earned about $800 a month, but that has now dropped to just over $20 due to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound.
The U.S. State Department notified congress last January of its intention to redirect the funds for military and police wages.
Some Republicans in Congress have called for eliminating military aid to Lebanon altogether, citing the increasing political power of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Despite this, the United States is the biggest foreign aid donor to Lebanon.
The assistance announced by Ambassador Shea will provide every Lebanese soldier and Internal Security Forces (ISF) officer with an extra $100 a month on top of their wages for the next six months.
Shea said the scheme was a “temporary” measure “in light of the urgency of Lebanon’s economic situation.”
The United Nations Development Program will disburse the funds.
Shea also renewed calls for the Lebanese government to end the ongoing political paralysis and implement economic reforms that Lebanon has agreed to with the International Monetary Fund.
This was announced during a news conference held at the UN headquarters in Beirut to launch a ‘Livelihood Support Program’ for the Lebanese army and Internal Security Forces hosted by the UNDP in partnership with the US Embassy in Beirut.
The launching ceremony was also attended by UNDP Resident Representative in Lebanon, Melanie Hauenstein, ISF Director General Major-General Imad Osman, and the Lebanese Army commander Joseph Aoun.
Joseph Aoun said that “the international community’s keenness to preserve the military institutions proves that it will not allow Lebanon to collapse on the security front.”
For his part, Osman said the families of the security forces “are suffering, just like all Lebanese families, and the six months aid comes in light of a delicate and sensitive situation.”