The United States is conducting its first-ever Central Partnership Station mission in Lebanon to “build partner capacity” in the region and “do some humanitarian work” amid growing calls for the expulsion of all American forces from regional countries in the aftermath of the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to the US 5th Fleet’s spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, the fleet’s Central Partnership Station exercise in Lebanon would grow the Lebanese Armed Forces’ ability to conduct missions like mine countermeasures, naval construction and disaster-related public health activities, as well as deliver goods like baby formula to the Mediterranean country.
“The fact that [US Naval Forces Central Command] is conducting its first-ever Central Partnership Station mission is a testament to the success and the effectiveness of those previously established efforts in other regions,” Hawkins told Defense News on Tuesday.
“We’re doing it in the Middle East because we recognize that there’s an opportunity to build partner capacity as well as do some humanitarian work that is needed.”
Expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF 2) arrived in Beirut on Monday to participate in the mission.
About 40 US Navy and military personnel will participate in the exercise, which is set to last through September 29 and aims to foster a closer military-to-military relationship between the US and Lebanese armed forces.
Although the US mission in Afghanistan is over, and in the midst of growing calls for the complete US withdrawal from the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria, over its destabilizing activities, as a result of which the US faces record anti-American sentiments in the region, Hawkins claimed such military-to-military engagements would result in “improved regional security and stability.”
“If we see that we had the effect desired and that it was beneficial to furthering the military-to-military relationship with the Lebanese Armed Forces, then we will certainly look to do more in the region with our partners along these lines,” he added.
The 5th Fleet’s area of operations reportedly encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The area includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb and is comprised of 21 countries.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of the US 5th Fleet, also described the mission as a “new opportunity” for the US Navy to work with their Lebanese counterparts.
“We are ushering in a new era of strengthening and expanding capacity building across the region,” he said, according to Seapower magazine.
Lebanon has been facing numerous challenges in recent years, including crippling fuel shortages that prompted resistance group Hezbollah to import fuel from Iran in spite of US opposition.
On Wednesday, Lebanese media reported that the fifth shipment carrying Iranian fuel reached the Arab country in defiance of US sanctions against both countries.
Earlier, Jim Risch, a top US senator, said it was “unnerving” to see that US sanctions have become meaningless.
The United States has imposed sanctions against Lebanon to pressure the country over the influence Hezbollah wields in its political and military sectors. In the 2000s, the movement fought off two major wars by the Israeli regime, Washington’s most treasured ally in the region.