Arsal used to be a vulnerable near-border community on Lebanon’s frontline with Daesh. Thanks to the LAF’s Fajr el Jouroud operation last summer, security has much improved: with UK support following the operation, the LAF now hold all territory east of Arsal, changing the security dynamic in the town.
Shorter held discussions with the head of Arsal municipality Bassel el Hujeiri and marked that the UK has not forgotten Arsal: together they visited to projects meeting the needs of the local community – a new solid waste management systems, and a flood-control system funded by the UK and delivered through the Lebanese Host Communities Support Programme (LHSP), under the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP. The UK is the first donor to be working with UNDP through the LHSP to deliver projects for the host community in Arsal, since militants were cleared from the town last summer. The Ambassador also heard from el Hujeiri about the outstanding needs of the local community.
Shorter also met with the LAF (9 Brigade) and the ISF at Arsal police station. Both briefed on how security in Arsal was changing since last summer, and discussed how the UK’s partnership with the ISF in support of its Strategic Review is helping the ISF realise its ambitions of becoming a modern, professional police service. Shorter also discussed with the ISF and LAF how the UK’s additional $13m – announced at Rome II last week – could benefit security forces around Arsal.
Following his meetings within the town, Shorter visited one of seven new LAF border positions where the Second Land Border Regiment are overseeing the border with Syria. These new positions – funded by approx $2.5m announced by the UK last year – mean Arsal is no longer a frontier town, but is instead benefiting from the security provided by the LAF throughout the Arsal Jurd.
After his visit Ambassador Shorter said:
It was fantastic to see the transformation that is already happening in Arsal thanks to the efforts of both the LAF and the ISF on the security front. Arsal has faced huge challenges in recent years, but I am proud the UK is contributing to help Arsal get back on its feet. We hope that our over $800m of support to Lebanon since 2011 – including what will now be over $120m for security – is benefiting all Lebanese, wherever they are. Crucially, security is an enabler for development, and that’s why we’re also proud to support the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP to make improvements on waste management and storm-water drainage, which will make a different to people’s daily lives. The UK continues to be by your side, in actions not words.