Kahwaji: Army deployment at Syrian border ‘needs some time’

Lebanese army commander General Jean Kahwaji said in remarks published on Wednesday that deploying army forces along the border with Syria needed some time.

“Implementing the plan to deploy [forces] along the northern and eastern borders [with Syria] needs some time as we will withdraw some military forces from certain areas to deploy them along the border,” Kahwaji told As-Safir newspaper.

“A brigade, which is around 2,000 soldiers, is needed to control the border better. [Army] forces are already present in areas of tension, [but] what we want to do is strengthen [these forces’] role.”

He also said that the aim of the plan to deploy forces along the border was to prevent “armed men” from using the border crossings “as much as possible.”

“It is very hard to completely control the entire border. Not only in Lebanon but in all countries. Therefore assuming that it is possible to control every meter of the northern and eastern borders with Syria is [wrong] for objective reasons that are not related to the army’s capabilities and competency.”

Kahwaji also said that army’s deployment along the border was a response to the citizens’ call on the army to intervene to maintain security.

“For us, popular cover is more important than political cover. The army [previously] came under gunfire along the border with Syria. The identity of the armed [men] was not known, but [Lebanese] military forces responded appropriately [to the gunfire]. This is what we will do again whenever our soldiers and officers are targeted.”

Commenting on statements that the army decreased its presence in Akkar following the killing of Sunni cleric Ahmad Abdel Wahed and his bodyguard, the army commander said: “Those who are [claiming this] either do not see [clearly] or are expressing their dreams and wishes.”

He added that no soldiers were withdrawn from Akkar and that the army will never leave Akkar “despite all pressures.”

The cabinet on Monday decided to dispatch army reinforcements to the border area in the North following several cross-border raids into Lebanon.

On Tuesday, an army spokesperson told AFP that it began sending troop reinforcements to the border with strife-torn Syria after deadly attacks in the region.

-NOW Lebanon