Country Listing

Lebanon Table of Contents


The Commander in Chief

The commander of the Lebanese Army in July 1987 was Major General Michel Awn, who was appointed in June 1984 after long negotiations in the national unity government of Prime Minister Rashid Karami. Awn, a Christian, was a career military officer who entered the military academy at Al Fayadiyyah in 1955 and graduated as a lieutenant in the artillery corps. He attended advanced courses in France and the United States and was promoted to commander of the artillery corps in 1976 during the Lebanese Civil War. Although the majority of Christian officers supported the Christian militia, Awn stayed aloof from factional politics during the Civil War and earned a reputation for neutrality and loyalty to the government. During the war, he was appointed to a military committee charged with rebuilding the army. Awn strongly advocated the need for an integrated, nonsectarian army. In 1977 he assembled a group of army officers and soldiers from different religious groups who had not participated in the sectarian fighting and founded the Eighth Brigade, which, under his command, suffered few defections.

In rising to the position of commander in chief, Awn succeeded his old rival, Major General Tannus. Tannus's resignation was demanded by Muslim politicians who believed him responsible for bombing Muslim areas while leaving Christian areas unscathed. Unlike Awn, Tannus had also favored the creation of four separate sectarian armies--Christian, Sunni, Shia, and Druze.

In 1987 the Lebanese Army consisted of 9 brigades containing a total of approximately 35,000 to 38,000 men, of whom only 15,000 to 18,000 were under the operational control of the central command structure. Many units existed only on paper, however, and soldiers who received paychecks were often in the service of the militias the army was intended to supplant. Under an informal agreement between the army and its renegade commanders, the ghost payroll was maintained to pump funds into Lebanon's war-torn economy. Additionally, the central government harbored hopes that the breakaway brigades eventually could be reunited with the official Lebanese Army.

Lebanon's governmental expenditures on its armed forces were estimated to be US$328 million annually and its expenditure on military matériel imports US$240 million in 1983, the most recent year for which statistics were available in late 1987. In addition, a 10-year US$955 million supplemental sum earmarked for rebuilding the armed forces was authorized in 1982, but the program was shelved when the army collapsed in 1984. Army equipment included 60 AMX-13 tanks, 137 M-48 tanks, 18 M-41 tanks, 100 Saladin armored cars, several hundred M-113 armored personnel carriers, an array of Western-supplied artillery, rocket launchers, antiaircraft artillery, and small arms.

Data as of December 1987