Hezbollah fighters stand on their army vehicle at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaida-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
As quoted in The New Arab, the U.K.-based pan-Arab news network, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon would not elaborate on the nature of operations by US troops and the number of special forces soldiers in Lebanon but did state, “I can confirm the presence of US Special Forces in Lebanon.”
“Our special forces are providing training and support to the Lebanese Armed Forces. That not only concentrates on operational type missions, but also tactical and strategic type missions. We also have a presence with Lebanese Special Forces in all aspects of training and special operations”.
He refrained from sharing further details such as the number of special operations forces present in Lebanon. Military sources told the Asharq al-Awsat daily the US soldiers “have been present in Lebanon to monitor the US military aid delivered to the army.”
According to the report, the US troops were in Lebanon to train the Lebanese army in preparation for an upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State group along the Syrian border. This was for a campaign that the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah was expected to join. Arab media reported on Sunday that Lebanese militia Hezbollah announced it will battle ISIS on the Syrian side.
U.S. Air Forces’ special operations planes have been spotted frequently landing at Lebanese Special Operations Forces’ academia in Hamat in northern Lebanon.
This week, Hezbollah took credit for ending the presence of al-Qaeda elements in the border area, following a week-long military offensive and then a negotiated settlement that saw hundreds of al-Qaeda-linked militants return to Syria along with their families and thousands of civilians.
On Friday, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a televised speech,”The Syrian front line against ISIS will be opened, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah will be there,” He explained that the Lebanese army will attack ISIS from the Lebanese side of the border while Hezbollah and the Syrian army will simultaneously attack it from the Syrian side.
The Lebanese military, which has received more than $1 billion in US security assistance in the past decade, took a back seat in that operation.