US special forces were reportedly on the ground in Lebanon ahead of a push by the US-backed Lebanese army against the Islamic State jihadist group along its northeastern border with Syria.
“I can confirm the presence of US Special Forces in Lebanon,” a Pentagon spokesman told the Al-Hurra TV network on Thursday. “Our special forces are providing training and support to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“That not only concentrates on operational type missions, but also tactical and strategic type missions. We also have a presence with Lebanese Special Forces in all aspects of training and special operations,” said spokesperson Eric Pahon.
Pahon would not elaborate on the nature of the operations by US troops and the number of special forces soldiers in the country.
According to the report, the US troops were in Lebanon to assist the Lebanese army in its upcoming offensive against the Islamic State — a campaign that the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah was expected to join.
Military sources told the Asharq al-Awsat daily the US soldiers “have been present in Lebanon to monitor the US military aid delivered to the army.”
This week, Hezbollah took credit for ending the presence of al-Qaeda elements in the border area, following a week-long military offensive and then a negotiated settlement that saw hundreds of al-Qaeda-linked militants return to Syria along with their families and thousands of civilians.
The Lebanese military, which has received more than $1 billion in US security assistance in the past decade, took a back seat in that operation.
In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to spearhead an upcoming fight in another section of the border, this time against IS.
Declaring victory Friday night, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the army was perfectly capable of winning that fight but offered his support should it be needed.
“We are at the service of the Lebanese army and under its command… if they ask for any help we will help,” he said in a televised speech.