On visit to LAF Navy base, UNIFIL head says MTF exit strategy linked to LAF capabilities
On a recent visit to a Lebanese naval facility north of Beirut, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col has said the exit strategy of UNIFIL Maritime Task Force (MTF), which assists the Lebanese Armed Forces Navy (LAF-N), is contingent upon the raising the capabilities of the Navy.
During his visit to the Jounieh naval base on 18 April, Maj. Gen. Del Col said it is of “paramount importance” to enhance and increase UNIFIL’s joint activities with the LAF Navy to facilitate the latter’s gradual assumption of security responsibilities in the Lebanese territorial waters.
“We have also to equip the LAF Navy to assume greater control over Lebanese territorial waters, which will enable the gradual handover of responsibilities from UNIFIL to the LAF,” said the UNIFIL head. “This constitutes a key element of UNIFIL’s future drawdown and exit strategy.”
During the tour of the naval base in Jounieh and the LAF Navy’s one of nine coastal radar stations, established with support of the German Navy, Major General Del Col was joined by the commander of the LAF Navy ship “LNS TABARJA,” Captain Roy Harouni, and UNIFIL MTF’s German Contingent Commander, Torsten Eidam. While in Jounieh, they visited UNIFIL’s German Training Camp and received briefings from Commander Eidam on “Education and Training with LAF-Navy.” He also visited one of LAF Navy’s nine radar stations, in Beirut.
LAF Navy Commander in Chief, Rear Admiral Hosni Daher, hailed UNIFIL MTF’s support with joint training and exercises with the Lebanese Navy, in addition to the assistance in securing Lebanon’s territorial waters.
“We cooperate with UNIFIL in several fields,” he said. “On the operational level, for example, the LAF Navy conducts joint naval patrols with UNIFIL’s MTF, in addition to joint exercises and maritime interdiction exercises in the field of anti-smuggling, (stopping) illegal immigration, search and rescue operations.”
Commander Eidam said his fellow naval officers provide trainings to their Lebanese Army counterparts in Jounieh every day, which has helped in raising the capabilities of the Lebanese Navy and in controlling their territorial waters.
While adopting resolution 2433 in August last year, UN Security Council called for the Government of Lebanon to develop a plan to increase its naval capabilities, with the goal of ultimately decreasing the UNIFIL MTF transitioning to LAF-Navy.
Established in October 2006 at the request of the Government of Lebanon, UNIFIL MTF currently has about 800 personnel and six ships: one each from Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Indonesia and Turkey. The Brazilian Navy has been in the command of the MTF since 2011. Since 2006, UNIFIL’s MTF has hailed more than 93,000 ships, of which about 14,000 were referred to the LAF Navy for inspection.