These weapons are part of the security assistance provided to Lebanon. GAO photo

As Tensions in Beirut Increase, GAO Reviews U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon

The United States provided nearly $1.5 billion in weapons, training, and other assistance to Lebanese security forces between 2013 and 2018. U.S. support for Lebanon is complicated due to the prominent role in the country of Hizballah, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization, which retains considerable influence as a major political party and a militia. The U.S. support includes equipment and training to build the capacity of Lebanese security forces.

Lebanon increased security around protest centres in central Beirut on December 18, after violence disrupted two months of largely peaceful anti-government demonstrations. Barricades have been deployed to block or control access to protest sites. Lebanon is expected to name a new premier on December 19.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review U.S. security assistance provided to Lebanon since 2013. It found that while the Departments of State (State) and Defense (DOD) reported progress in meeting security objectives in Lebanon, gaps in performance information limit their ability to fully assess the results of security-related activities.

State and DOD report improvements in Lebanese security forces’ capabilities in key areas, such as border security. As part of monitoring such improvements and assessing the performance of security activities in Lebanon, State created related indicators but has not established targets for all of these indicators. Furthermore, State’s data were incomplete for 11 of the 15 indicators GAO analyzed. For example, performance data for three indicators did not identify the number or percentage of people who received security training, as called for by the indicator. Without addressing these gaps, State has limited ability to determine to what extent it is achieving the intended results of its security-related activities in Lebanon.

State and DOD use two primary safeguards to limit the risk of terrorist organizations benefitting from U.S. assistance to Lebanon. First, State routinely reviews the leadership of the Lebanese military and police forces and has determined they are not controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. Second, State and DOD vet potential trainees to ensure they do not have known or suspected ties to terrorism.

The GAO review found that State and DOD conducted the required inventory checks of equipment provided to Lebanese security forces, but DOD did not meet its timeliness standards for nearly one-third of its observations. According to DOD officials, the method DOD uses to determine when it should complete annual inspections does not consider the date of the equipment’s last inspection, which results in some inspections taking longer than prescribed by DOD’s timeliness standards.

In its December 18 report, GAO recommended that State should establish, as appropriate, and consolidate targets for its security-related performance indicators; and should collect complete performance data for these security-related indicators. In addition, GAO recommended that DOD should revise its approach for determining when end-use monitoring inspections are to be completed to consider the date of last inspection. State and DOD concurred with the recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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