The Trump administration quietly released $105 million in military aid to Lebanon amid rising criticism and concern from USA lawmakers and both current and former USA officials.
The aid was released right before Thanksgiving, and lawmakers were notified on Monday, two congressional staffers and an administration official told The Associated Press.
The security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was passed by Congress and signed by the president, but it was blocked by the White House and its Office of Management and Budget since June. The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay despite repeated queries from Congress.
In this context, another former USA ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month warned of the potential benefits to Iran and Russian Federation from withholding the military funding to Lebanon. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., had been pressing the administration since October to either release the funds or explain why it was being withheld.
"The money is good to go", the State Department official said.
The military aid was placed under a mysterious hold for months with no explanation.
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A senior state department official pointed out to the recent comments made by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale when asked for an explanation. It was likened to the Ukraine aid hold-up, which sparked a full-blown impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
"Holding the money weakened the Lebanese military just at the moment that they were holding the country together", Sen.
"The military assistance now under review should be rapidly released", Feltman said to House lawmakers last month. "Our assistance is crucial to help Lebanon counter Iran-backed Hezbollah and other groups threatening the region", Deutch wrote on Twitter.
Since the aid, known as Foreign Military Financing, supported the Lebanese Armed Forces' purchases of weapons that have to be purchased or built, the freeze did not delay anything that was ready for transfer, the aide added. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill calling for the United States to withhold 20% of U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, or LAF, until the military outfit could certify it was taking steps to cut ties with Hezbollah.
The Pentagon and State Department reject that view, saying the army is the only independent Lebanese institution capable of resisting Hezbollah.
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But as a captain he also can take his energy and wisdom and skills and apply it and hopefully draw the best out of his players. I'm looking at how the guys can really perform together. "More than anything, it's been about communication", said Woods.
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