Lebanon’s Military Capacity

Keith Sharfman —  8 August 2006

I’m confused about something.

What are the capabilities of the Lebanese army? Is it capable of dealing with Hezbollah or not?

Till now, the Lebanese position has been: we have not been able to comply with our obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 to disarm Hezbollah because our army is too weak to do the job. So don’t blame us for Hezbollah’s actions.

Now, however, the Lebanse government is suddenly offering to use 15,000 Lebanese troops to keep Hezbollah at bay if only Israel would withdraw.

If it’s true that the Lebanese army is able to handle Hezbollah, then why didn’t it disarm Hezbollah before the current conflict began? And if the Lebanese army really can’t handle Hezbollah, then isn’t the current offer to use the army basically worthless?

Whatever the Lebanese army’s capabilities really are, it seems hard to fault Israel for its skepticism about the Lebanese offer and for insisting on dealing with Hezbollah itself and not withdrawing until a multinational force is in place.

4 responses to Lebanon’s Military Capacity

  1. 

    The question isn’t “why didn’t Lebanon do this before?” It is “why should Israel trust Lebanon to do it now.” Lebanon always had sufficient numbers of troops to deploy to southern Lebanon for the purpose of confronting and reining in Hezbollah. But would those troops, once deployed, have been capable of carrying out such a mission? Unlikely. And that hasn’t changed. Lebanon is, unsurprisingly, trying to get Israeli forces out of the country, and will say and do just about anything to accomplish that goal. But just because Lebanon offers doesn’t mean the Lebanese Army is up to the task. So, Keith is exactly right when he writes “it seems hard to fault Israel for its skepticism about the Lebanese offer and for insisting on dealing with Hezbollah itself and not withdrawing until a multinational force is in place.”

  2. 

    The main reason is that Lebanon isn’t a very stable place, and diverting troops to the frontiers of the country leaves the capital open to unrest.

    The whole country is a wreck now and isn’t functioning anyway, so deploying the troops now won’t make a hell of a lot of difference.

  3. 

    John, Hezbollah is still firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. So the degradation does not yet appear to be complete. But you make a good point that the Lebanese army’s capacity vis-a-vis Hezbollah is changing over time. And hopefully Hezbollah will soon be weak enough for the Lebanese army to handle it.

  4. 

    The obvious answer is that the Israeli attack on Hezbollah has degraded Hezbollah’s effectiveness to the point that the Lebanese Army now can handle Hezbollah. I don’t know whether that is the case, but that’s a plausible answer to the question of whether the Lebanese Army could be capable of containing Hezbollah now but not before.