Trump administration lifts hold on Lebanon security aid

Lebanese Army commandos march in a military parade in the capital Beirut on Nov. 22 2016

The Trump administration quietly released $105 million in military aid to Lebanon amid rising criticism and concern from United States lawmakers and both current and former U.S. officials.

Congress was informed on October 31, by the U.S. State Department, about the White House budget office (OMB) and National Security Council's decision to hold up funds over $100 million in foreign military assistance, without providing any explanation.

The security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was passed by Congress and signed by the president, but it was blocked by the White House and its Office of Management and Budget since June.

Congressional aides said on Monday the administration had still provided no explanation for the decision to withhold the money, which had been approved by Congress and the State Department. Hale described growing consternation among diplomats about the delay.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had previously failed to respond to inquiries from the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the reasons for the Trump administration's decision to cut off aid. However, unlike Ukraine, there has been no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking "a favor" from Lebanon in exchange for the aid, according to officials familiar with the matter.

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As with the Ukraine assistance, OMB did not explain the delay.

"The delay had frustrated the national security community, which believes the assistance that pays for US -made military equipment for the Lebanese army is essential, particularly as Lebanon reels from financial chaos and mass protests". Murphy said in response to the release.

"There's literally nothing in the Middle East this White House can't screw up (State and DoD opposed the hold FYI)", Murphy wrote on Twitter. The LAF is also seen as an important buffer against Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militant group and political party that's considered a terrorist group by the US.

Agency officials and national security experts said the aid, which covers the cost of US-made military equipment supplied to the Lebanese army, was crucial for pushing back against Iran and maintaining stability in the country. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill calling for the United States to withhold 20% of U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, or LAF, until the military outfit could certify it was taking steps to cut ties with Hezbollah.

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