Trump administration quietly releases Lebanon aid

The Associated Press

The Trump administration released more than $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon before Thanksgiving, two congressional staffers and an administration official confirmed to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The White House and the Office of Management and Budget have declined to comment on the matter.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and recently traveled to Lebanon, said there was "no legitimate security rationale to withhold funding".

A senior administration official confirmed to Insider that the U.S. is "providing $105 million in foreign military financing for the Lebanese Armed Forces".

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he and first lady Melania Trump depart for travel to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in London, from the White House in Washington, U.S. December 2, 2019.

The $105 million in foreign military funding for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was approved by Congress and had strong support within the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council, but it was placed on hold for months. It was likened to the Ukraine aid hold-up, which sparked a full-blown impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

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As lawmakers demanded answers from the administration about why the aid had been withheld, some compared it with a similar decision from the administration to withhold almost $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine that also had been approved by Congress.

Asked about the freeze in aid to Ukraine, a key element of the impeachment question, Hale said that he learned in June that assistance was on hold to both Ukraine and Lebanon "without any explanation".

Hale, the third-highest ranking official in the State Department, told House investigators he had "not received an explanation for hold on the Lebanese assistance program".

Lawmakers such as Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Sen. Murphy said in response to the release.

As with the Ukraine assistance, OMB did not explain the delay. "Our assistance is crucial to help Lebanon counter Iran-backed Hezbollah and other groups threatening the region", Deutch wrote on Twitter.

On Monday, the senior State official said on a conference call with reporters that Lebanon's army is "an excellent partner to the United States" in fighting extremism.

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