Life on the frontline
It’s the latest chapter in a project that’s been years in the making.
100 armoured patrol vehicles have now arrived with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), donated by the UK to help the nation tackle the threat from terrorism on its border with Syria.
The Lebanese border is frequently used by violent extremists, as well as international arms and drugs smugglers.
But the LAF now have a new vital tool in their arsenal: Land Rovers that are capable of tackling the rugged Syrian border terrain and which can be mounted with heavy weapons.
It will allow them to keep closer watch over their borders and stop extremists trying to enter Lebanon, who could otherwise then attempt to travel on to Europe.
A small, specialist UK military team have now begun providing training to help the LAF get the best tactical and operational effect from the vehicles, which were taken out of service by the British military this year after a long and successful spell on operations around the globe.
FCDO Middle East Minister James Cleverly said:
“Keeping Lebanon’s land border secure is key in our shared fight against Daesh in the Middle East.
“These patrol vehicles, donated by the UK, will help strengthen the border with Syria against weapons smugglers and terrorist groups, and ultimately protect both of our countries’ national security.”
And it’s not just people in Lebanon who are set to benefit.
Colonel Nabil Abdullah, of the Lebanese Armed Forces, has said:
“Lebanon is a gateway to Europe. We are the first line of defence against any attack on Europe. It is good for the British people if terrorists don’t get through Lebanon.”
A historic first
The donation of the vehicles comes after the UK provided £27 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the devastating Beirut explosion in August 2020. And in 2019, thanks to UK funding and military expertise, the Lebanon-Syria border was secured for the first time in history – dealing a huge blow to Daesh operations in the region.
Using lessons learned in various military operations over recent decades, including in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain helped Lebanon to build observation towers to hold terrain and act as bases in the fight against the terrorist group.
Lebanon is a nation that has been greatly impacted by Daesh crimes and the conflict in Syria.
Around a quarter of its population is made up of refugees from the country.
By 2017, however, the Lebanese Armed Forces were able to liberate 120km² of the country’s territory from Daesh. More than 75 border positions were built to prevent the same situation from ever happening again, spanning from the Mediterranean to Mount Hermon, with the UK also donating 350 Land Rovers, 4,000 sets of body armour and delivering training to 11,000 Lebanese personnel.
UK military veterans were involved in the training, while armoured boxes used in the new 30-foot constructions were taken from towers being decommissioned in Northern Ireland as part of the £62 million project.
And the region has seen positive developments as a result.
Taking back and securing territory allowed locals to start restoring agricultural activity in the area, while the gradual removal of complex unexploded ordnance was also able to begin.
In recent years Lebanon has become an increasingly important counter-terrorism partner for the UK.
This historic moment, meanwhile, marks the latest example of the UK’s commitment to boosting the country’s security and stability in the years ahead.