News: And why it matters
DOHA, Qatar - Since mid-2011, conflict has raged between factions of Syrian rebels and Lebanese forces. This is nothing we haven’t heard before. But, it’s important to recognize that it does have an effect on us, as U.S. citizens, because we have aided Lebanon throughout the ordeal.
Specifically, we have provided more than $100 million in funding through the International Military Education and Training initiative and the Foreign Military Financing programs.
Those programs serve to provide equipment and training to support the internal security, border protection and counter terrorism efforts of foreign nations, enabling them to better combat insurgent activity in their respective regions.
Additionally, we have provided agricultural and infrastructure engineering support through the U.S. Agency for International Development, enabling them to improve mountain agriculture and irrigation systems, fully inspect dam systems, and to better sustain the Lebanese populace.
Despite the aid of the U.S., Syrian rebels have become more organized and more aggressive. This may possibly be a result of the influence exerted by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS (the ISIS and ISIL acronyms refer to the same group).
The coordination we’ve seen has resulted in the deadliest attack in three months. It reflects a shift in tactics from the splinter-cell and lone-wolf approaches, to massive, organized ground assaults. This, they have realized, is what will gain them control of geographical areas. And, as a result, Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees continue to suffer the consequences of these actions.
So, the question is: how does this impact a regular Joe deployed to the Middle East? The answer is James Foley.
Recent headlines have been awash with the ISIS/ISIL beheading of U.S. journalist, James Foley. This action, they claim, was a result of their demands not being met – specifically, the removal of all U.S. ground forces from Iraq and the immediate cessation of U.S. air strikes.
Syrian militants captured Foley in 2012, near the border of Lebanon and Syria. As these small, asymmetrical groups began to adopt the organized, larger-scale tactics of ISIS/ISIL, we can assume their collaboration grew, as evidenced by who controlled Foley at the time of his death.
This matters, as there are several Americans living and working in the turbulent areas of the Middle East. Joint Task Force Lebanon, a humanitarian mission, currently has Americans on the ground in Lebanon. And, with ISIS/ISIL calling all Muslims to kidnap U.S., British and Israeli citizens to be used as bargaining chips, we must all be very aware of our surroundings.
However, this extra caution should not be limited to those in these regions; media outlets have directly linked Foley’s murder to a British jihadi group. That means U.S. civilians, contractors, families and military personnel should take this matter seriously, both at home and abroad.
It is our responsibility to raise awareness of these issues for all who may be at risk. We believe it is important that you understand the intentions of groups like ISIS/ISIL, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the other small militia cells who support them. Soldiers, tourists and journalists are specifically being targeted for kidnap, ransom, exchange and execution.
Safety is a matter of vigilance. This is a call for all of us to remain aware, remain educated and to be ready for anything.