UN Lebanon Force Goes on Defensive After Summer Bomb Attacks

[Bloomberg] Gregory Viscusi - UN troops monitoring the year-old cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah used to patrol southern Lebanon's stony hills on foot, going without helmets. After two bomb attacks this summer, the peacekeepers now stick to their armored vehicles. Free time off base is restricted. The new defensive posture is hindering the work of the 13,000-strong, 30-nation UN mission. Military experts say it harms the long-term safety of the troops by cutting them off from the local population and makes it easier for Hizbullah to slip weapons back into southern Lebanon. "Genuine security depends on getting to know the locals, having coffee with them, developing relationships.... Peacekeeping is hanging out in mosques and coffee shops,'' says Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Ranger platoon commander in Afghanistan and Iraq who lived in Lebanon for two years before becoming a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "When force protection becomes the priority, then the mission is basically over,'' said Timur Goksel, a former adviser to UN forces in Lebanon who teaches at the American University of Beirut.

2007-09-28 01:00:00

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