Lebanon's Army Asks for Aid Against ISIS

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On Monday the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) asked the U.S. government for military aid, in a bid to counter the thread of militant attacks from across the Syrian border.

The LAF beat back fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earlier this month, after the extremist group stormed the strategic border town of Arsal. It is now asking for aid that includes ammunition and planes for close air support to fight the militants camped in the mountains.

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As Syria's war spills over the Lebanese border, the LAF is maintaining a defensive strategy, leaving the aggressive pursuit of ISIS and various rebel groups to fighters from the militant group Hezbollah.

We asked Aram Nerguizian, senior fellow and the Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Mario Abou Zeid, an analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center focusing on Syria and Lebanon, to weigh in the aid requests and what they say about the spillover effect of Syria's war.

Syria Deeply: What is the LAF's strategy in fighting ISIS?

Aram Nerguizian: What the LAF have been doing is not a hunter-killer mission. Defeating and hunting down ISIS is not the mission. They are focused on a narrowly defined mission of border defense. The first is tied to detection: the LAF didn't have the ability to detect what was going on around the border region. The other part is to defend, to build up the structure enough that you can put up some kind of the defense. The idea is to deny and deter entry. So the idea is not about going and hunting down ISIS or looking for the bad guy, it's about defining a very clear geographic space in northern Lebanon, and defending that. While Hezbollah's mission is the opposite: they're going out and trying to hunt down ISIS.

This is "offensive defense"; it’s not a military that fires if unprovoked, or in a defensive role. They're not going to do that. The hunter-killers trying to conduct offensive missions in northern Bekaa are Hezbollah. The LAF's posture will remain defensive, but defense is about effective deterrence and bringing about the resources the country has. They are on the road to doing that.

Mario Abou Zeid: The LAF just cares about trying to stop any more spillover from the Syrian conflict. They are trying to limit the consequences of the spillover on these Lebanese towns, and definitely will not be thinking about crossing the border into Syria. The LAF hasn't cooperated with regime forces or asked for help, and in Arsal it was the main player. All Hezbollah did was fire missiles across the outskirts of Arsal and the Syrian part of the border.

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