Lebanese Armed Forces Implementing Instruments of National Power as Lines of Effort to Engage a Palestinian Refugee Camp

By Dagher, Maj Jean | Military Review, July/August 2018 | Go to article overview

Lebanese Armed Forces Implementing Instruments of National Power as Lines of Effort to Engage a Palestinian Refugee Camp


Dagher, Maj Jean, Military Review


A nation's military is considered a reflection of its people's norms, culture, values, and expectations, and its civilian and military leaders share the responsibility for national security.1 This tenet was tested in Lebanon when the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) were employed in the unique circumstances of the 2007 Nahr al-Bared Campaign (NBC).2 The LAF's deployment within its country's borders for stability and combat operations appears to be inconsistent with a traditional army's role in a sovereign state. Since the conclusion of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990 and the country's reconstruction in 1991, the Lebanese government has entrusted the LAF with a stability mission in the country's interior with its units assigned across all Lebanon. Thus, the LAF finds itself acting as an expeditionary force in its own country in addition to its central border security mission.3 In this context, the LAF experience in NBC deserves study.

This article first demonstrates how the four instruments of national p ower- dip - lomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME)-represent a framework for understanding the LAF lines of effort (LOEs) in the NBC.4 Second, it analyzes the NBC by providing an overview of the NBC context: the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, Fath al-Islam (FAI) and the rise of Islamic terrorism within the camp, and the Palestinians' ambiguous legal status in Lebanon. Third, the article describes the events preceding the NBC, explains the LAF singular context, and describes the operational design framework developed to achieve the campaign's desired objectives. Lastly, it concludes by recommending what military leaders can learn from a study of the NBC regarding the application of the DIME instruments of national power as LOEs in future engagements.

Over the course of more than three months (20 May-2 September 2007), the LAF was able to defeat the FAI terrorist organization that intended to establish an Islamic State (IS) presence in the North Governorate of Lebanon (hereafter called North Lebanon). In NBC, the LAF achieved major success, considering the magnitude of the challenges faced by the military. Through the effective application and integration of diplomatic measures, informational activities, military operations, and economic actions, the LAF became the most essential and critical means to advance the Lebanese government's national interests. The DIME approach led directly to the defeat of the FAI. The fighting in NBC also refocused attention on the LAF's role as the primary defender of Lebanese sovereignty, its constitution, and the formula for coexistence between the diverse religions and ethnicities that make up Lebanese society.

The Nahr al-Bared Campaign

The NBC was unique for several reasons. First, the campaign was the first joint operation conducted by the LAF since its establishment in 1945. Second, it was the first time that the military entered a Palestinian camp in Lebanon during peacetime. Additionally, the LAF's death toll was the highest since the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), totaling 169 soldiers. Lastly, the internally displaced personnel, the majority being Palestinians with few Lebanese, reached more than twenty thousand.5

The clashes between the FAI and LAF began the night of 19 May 2007. After a bank robbery, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) raided an apartment in Tripoli, North Lebanon, and the suspects inside turned out to be militants from FAI. Violence escalated between the FAI and the ISF, and before dawn the next morning, the FAI militants simultaneously attacked and seized the three LAF checkpoints around the Nahr al-Bared Camp, killing thirty-two LAF soldiers. The militants spread outside the perimeter of the camp with the aim of expanding and seizing northern Lebanon and establishing a terrorist base in the region. The hostile attack led to 105 days of ferocious war between the FAI terrorist organization and the LAF. The campaign ended 2 September 2007 with the fall of the camp to the LAF and the escape of some FAI militants. …

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