UNIFIL in Lebanon: Strong Force, Weak Mandate

(Institute for National Security Studies) Brig. Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion - UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, ended the Second Lebanon War and outlined the security regime that has been in effect for the past decade. UNIFIL, the temporary UN force in Lebanon first established in 1978, was expanded from 2,000 soldiers to 12,000 troops of higher quality. Yet UNIFIL's operations - as well as its inactions and passivity - demonstrate the limits of multinational UN forces authorized by a limited and limiting mandate. Resolution 1701 sought to ensure "the establishment between the Blue Line [the Israeli border] and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons, other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL." This mechanism has been critical in preventing escalation, reducing the risk of renewed flare-ups, resolving disagreements, transmitting messages, and formulating creative solutions for maintaining the calm. However, UNIFIL has failed to a degree to prevent attacks from Lebanon aimed at Israel and to keep this area free of hostile activity. Since the end of the war, more than 20 incidents of rocket fire from Lebanon to Israel have been recorded. UNIFIL's major failure has been its failure to address the Hizbullah arms issue. Hizbullah has beefed up, broadened, deepened, and increased its military deployment in southern Lebanon and elsewhere in the country. UNIFIL was charged with helping the government of Lebanon dismantle armed militias. But in practice, Lebanon's government is held hostage by Hizbullah, which is part of the government. Certain UN forces became known early on for being particularly assertive. Then in the summer of 2007, six soldiers of the Spanish battalion were killed by a bomb near the Shiite village of al-Khiyam. Over the years, many UNIFIL patrols have been attacked. Under the increased pressure, UNIFIL forces gradually scaled back their determination. For example, after UNIFIL received European UAVs to assist in its mission in Lebanon, these were sent back unopened under Hizbullah pressure. The writer served as head of Strategic Planning in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015).

2016-08-17 00:00:00

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