BEIRUT (AP) — The United States on Thursday delivered three military helicopters to Lebanon to help the country’s armed forces in their battle against extremists near the border with Syria.
Thursday’s delivery of three Huey II helicopters raises to 10 the number of such U.S.-made aircraft in Lebanon’s fleet.
U.S. Charge d’Affaires and interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones said during a ceremony in the Lebanese capital of Beirut that the $26 million helicopters “demonstrate America’s continued commitment to support” the army’s modernization plans.
Washington has been a major supporter of Lebanon’s army, which is fighting the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s Syrian branch in border areas.
Lebanon’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Manuel Kerjian, said U.S. military aid to Lebanon is boosting the level of combat preparedness “and consequently its capability to confront terrorist organizations.”
The delivery coincided with a visit to Lebanon by British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, who said Lebanon is an important part of the frontline against terrorism and pledged continued support.
“We are delighted by the way that the UK support has being translated by the Lebanese armed forces in strengthening border security and enabling the armed forces to take the fight to Daesh and keep Lebanon safe from the incursions of Daesh,” he said after meeting with the Lebanese premier, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Saudi Arabia last month announced it is halting deals worth $4 billion aimed at equipping and supporting Lebanese security forces, in retaliation for the tiny country’s siding with Iran amid the Sunni kingdom’s spat with the Shiite powerhouse.