In light of the political and health crisis plaguing the country, Major General Youssef Haddad warned that by next September the army would be in a critical condition.
Major General Youssef Haddad revealed that the Lebanese army needs $100 million immediately to cover the basic needs of its soldiers, stressing that the military institution is trying to avoid collapse and that if this happens, Lebanon will be lost.
The Lebanese economy is in a state of collapse after the country failed to form a government.
Army leaders tell CNBC that their biggest challenge today is helping soldiers make ends meet.
Lebanese army soldiers below the poverty line
The Lebanese Army pays the equivalent of $84 per month to recruits based on the exchange rate of 15,500 Lebanese pounds per US dollar.
With the currency now approaching 20,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market, that salary now puts the average soldier below the poverty line.
Haddad said each soldier needs an “additional bonus to help him cover his basic needs on a monthly basis for 12 months” — which should total about $90 million to $100 million, he said.
Economy in free fallسقوط
Lebanon is going through its worst economic crisis in decades after the country failed to form a government that could carry out reforms and obtain much-needed aid.
The country of 6 million has seen its currency lose 90% of its value over the past 18 months on the informal market, hitting new lows against the US dollar this week on the black market. Food price inflation has risen to 400%.
According to the World Bank, inflation was 84% in 2020, and GDP per capita fell by about 40% from 2018 to 2020 – and is set to fall further.
Since 2017, the Lebanese army has adopted an austerity policy in response to the crisis, imposing a hiring freeze and a moratorium on early retirement.
Many soldiers and their families sought second or third jobs. Such action would violate the army’s official policy, but commanders say they are sympathetic to their soldiers’ plight.
“There is a hidden contract between the leadership and the soldiers,” Haddad said. “We’re asking soldiers to work 24/7, perhaps giving his (or her) life, to be killed working for the good of his country.”
“The only thing we can give the soldier is peace of mind because we are here to protect your family, to ensure they have adequate medical coverage and that children (can go) to school,” he added.
There are also growing concerns that disaffected soldiers may leave the LAF and join other armed groups that could offer higher salaries and more lucrative benefits than the LAF.
Many in the international community view the Lebanese army – a force that the Defense Ministry says consist of 77,000 to 80,000 soldiers – as the country’s only honest broker.
They have also been heavily criticized for their handling of the 2019 protests, which is outside the military’s official mandate.
However, getting foreign governments or members of the Lebanese diaspora to foot the bill will be a tough sell.
Years of donations from Gulf and Arab states came to a halt as Western countries called on the stubborn Lebanese political class to step down in favor of an interim government to kickstart reforms.
Military austerity can severely damage operations such as border security, which is important for a country that shares borders with Syria in its north and east. To the south of Lebanon lies Israel.
The Lebanese Armed Forces patrol the external borders, while official checkpoints are under the control of the Customs Authority and the Internal Security Forces.
“We continue to provide our assistance to the legitimate institution that aims to defend Lebanon and secure Lebanon, which is the army,” David Hale, the former US undersecretary of state for political affairs, told CNBC.
The United States has sent more than $2.5 billion to the country’s military since 2006, and pledged another $120 million in May.
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