BEIRUT (Nov. 19, 2010) — U.S. Central Command Commander General James N. Mattis made his first visit to Beirut, Lebanon today and met with Lebanon’s senior government leadership.
During his visit, Gen. Mattis met with President Michel Sleiman, Minister of Defense Elias Murr, and Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Lieutenant General Jean Kahwagi. He also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Maura Connelly, and embassy staff.
Upon his departure, Gen Mattis provided the following statement:
General Mattis thanked President Sleiman, Minister Murr, and General Kahwagi for their courtesy and hospitality during his visit to Lebanon today. He gained a deep appreciation of the views and perspectives of these senior leaders.
General Mattis came to Lebanon to reiterate to the Lebanese people, the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Government of Lebanon the U.S. government’s position that the United States is committed to the continuity of CENTCOM’s relationship with the LAF and to supporting legitimate institutions of the Lebanese state. As General Mattis discussed with the President, the Minister of Defense and General Kahwagi, U.S. support for the Lebanese Armed Forces is a key aspect of our wide-ranging support to the Government of Lebanon. General Mattis was also pleased that the U.S. Congress recently reaffirmed its commitment to security assistance to Lebanon. President Obama continues to believe that U.S. support to the LAF is part of an international commitment to enable the Lebanese Government to exercise its sovereignty and authority over all of its Territory in accordance UNSCRs 1559 and 1701.
As Ambassador Connelly has said, the U.S. believes its assistance to the LAF contributes to improving regional stability and is clearly in the interests of the Lebanese people of the United States. General Mattis pledged to continue to support training and engagement assistance to the LAF in order to build greater military capacity and deepen our relationship.
The U.S. has provided $720 million in security assistance since 2005 to equip and train the LAF as tangible evidence of the United State’s commitment to Lebanon. The U.S. government believes our assistance to Lebanon has served to deepen our partnership and help ensure the viability of the institutions that will serve as the guarantors of Lebanon’s future. A strong, sovereign, stable Lebanon is in everyone’s interest - - the Lebanese people, the region, the United States and the international community as a whole.