Lebanese Armed Forces

The 1926 Constitution designated the president of the republic as commander in chief of the armed forces, but it contained no other reference to the military establishment. On March 13, 1979, the Chamber of Deputies passed the New Defense Law, which reorganized the command structure of the armed forces. The law created the Supreme Defense Council, consisting of the president of the republic as chairman, the prime minister as vice chairman, and the deputy prime minister and the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior, and finance as members. The commander of the armed forces attended Supreme Defense Council meetings in an advisory capacity. The Supreme Defense Council had a secretariat, whose secretary general was required to be an active officer of the rank of colonel or above and who reported to the prime minister.

According to Articles 3, 5, and 6 of the New Defense Law, the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Defense Council were authorized to decide the nation's defense policies and to define their aims. Although the law reiterated the president's constitutional authority as supreme commander in chief of the armed forces, it also stipulated that he exercise this power through the Supreme Defense Council. Therefore, the law circumscribed the president's power over the armed forces and distributed some decision-making power to ministers. Article 17 of the New Defense Law placed the Ministry of Defense and all its attached organizations-- such as the Military Bureau, the Lebanese Army, the General Administration Department, the Inspectorate General, and the Military Council--under the exclusive control of the minister of defense.

The New Defense Law also stipulated that the commander of the armed forces be appointed by the Council of Ministers from among staff officers nominated by the minister of defense, who supervised him in his duties, except for military and security operations, for which the commander of the armed forces had sole responsibility. The law designated the chief of staff as the second in command. The New Defense Law strengthened the position of the chief of staff by delegating to him some responsibilities previously belonging to the commander of the armed forces--including training and legal affairs. The New Defense Law also created slots for two deputy chiefs of staff.

Articles 29 and 30 of the New Defense Law established the Military Council which was attached directly to the minister of defense. Its members were the commander of the armed forces, the secretary general of the Supreme Defense Council, the director of the General Administration Department, the inspector general, and two officers with the rank of colonel or above. By tacit agreement, the membership was allotted along confessional lines and required to include a representative of each of the prominent communities: Maronite, Sunni, Shia, Druze, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholic. The Military Council's duties consisted primarily of organizing the institutions attached to the Ministry of Defense and naming the commanders of military regions, divisions, and brigades; commanders of air force, military, and naval academies; and military attach?s in embassy posts. Because these responsibilities previously had belonged to the commander in chief alone, the New Defense Law diminished his power.

The Lebanese Navy and Lebanese Air Force are subordinate to the Army. The Lebanese Armed Forces underwent their last transformation in 1991 and currently maintains a standing army of approximately 60,000 men. However, the miltary branches are not a balanced for joint military operations. The Navy and Air Force are vastly underfunded compared to the Ground Forces and lack the resources and equipment of a capable modern military. The Navy relies on small tracker boats and the Air Force mainstay are helicopters from the United States. In practice, both the Navy and Air Force are components of the internal security forces because their missions and operations are focused on domestic concerns.

The Lebanese Armed Forces are led by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. That individual is assisted by the Chief of Staff who also oversees four deputy chiefs of staff. The bureaucracy is then spread down to various directorates over each of the armed forces. Also each command of the army, navy and air force presides over that aspect of the armed forces and included institutions. In the case of the Lebanese Navy, the Naval command oversees the Quarter General of the Navy, Department of Naval Equipments, the Naval School, Beirut Naval Base, and the Jouieh Naval Base. The Lebanese Armed Forces Command is located in Yarzeh.

As of March 2013 the Minister of Defense was Fayiz Ghosn and the current Commander in Chief General Jean Kahwagi, reportedly the favorite of Deputy PM and Defense Minister Elias Murr and his father, Aoun bloc MP Michel Murr. He was appointed as commander of the third Intervention regiment starting 22/1/1996; appointed as Chief of Staff of the eleventh Infantry brigade starting 31/7/1999; appointed as assistant commander of the seventh Infantry brigade starting 22/8/2001; and appointed as commander of the second infantry brigade starting 29/7/2002.

The previous Commander in Chief was General Michel Sleiman, who served in that office from 21/12/1998 to 24/05/2008. General Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese army commander, was elected as President on 25 May 2008, ending a seven-month vacuum in the presidency after the mandate of the former President, Emile Lahoud, expired on 23 November 2007. He joined the Military Academy as student officer in 1976 and graduated from the Military Academy as 2nd Lieutenant in 1970. General Sleiman has previously held the positions of Director of Military Intelligence (Moukhabarat) for Mount Lebanon (1990-1991), Secretary to Army Command (1991-1993), Commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade (1993-1996), and Commander of the 6th Infantry Brigade (1996-1998). He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1996 and to Lieutenant General in 1998. In 1998, he was also appointed as Commander in Chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

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