The Lebanese Army had begun the process of reorganisation following its virtual disintegration during 18th months of civil war.
The Lebanese Army had begun the process of reorganisation following its virtual disintegration during 18th months of civil war. But it's not an easy task. The Kleyate Air Force base in the North is being used to train soldiers. During the war it was held by troops of the Leftist Lebanese Arab Army before being taken over by the Syrians. Later, the base was returned to the Lebanese Army.
SYNOPSIS: According to a high-ranking spokesman, there are about 3,000 trained men in the Army.
Of these 2,500 are in the Bekaa valley and the rest in and around Beirut, the Lebanese capital. This is all that's left of the 18,000-man force which existed before March of last year when the first significant fragmentation began after an attempted coup d'etat. Until then, the Army has refrained from involvement in the factional strife.
At the Air Force base, which is 135 kilometres north of Beirut, soldiers are under-going training in commando tactics. Some of them are expected to be among the first Lebanese troops to be stationed in the troubled South. Because of the disintegration, many soldiers have been away from duty for one reason or another for several months.
Now, they are brushing up on their knowledge as they do various exercises and rifles drill. It's hoped that the Lebanese Army will be rebuilt to a strength of about 30,000 - much larger than before its breaking-up. This is considered to be necessary because of Middle Eastern rivalries and the border situation with Israel.
While the Lebanese Army was disintegrating, the small Air Force remained largely intact throughout the war. But it's also being shaped up to resume its normal functions as the country returns to normal. Meanwhile, a new recruitment drive will be launched in September. According to a spokesman, it would take at least six months for the Army to be strong enough to handle peace-keeping responsibilities. But it will take much longer to build it up to the desired strength of 30,000.