BEIRUT — Army Chief Joseph Aoun praised troops on Monday for "resilience and concern" amid the economic crisis and during recent heightened tensions along the southern border. It was Aoun's last Army Day speech before he is scheduled to retire in January with no successor in place.
August 1st marks the 78th anniversary of the Lebanese military's independence, and the fourth since the economic crisis in 2019 saw military personnel's salaries plummet. Aoun acknowledged the difficulties: "Today, as we see the military institution perform its duties to ensure peace and security, and despite the recent difficult years and the living reality that is affecting the military and all Lebanese, we realize that our sacrifices are directed in the right direction to serve national interest solely."
"During the past period, in which Lebanon witnessed consecutive events that had consequences on different levels, you presented an example of will, resilience and concern for the lives of the Lebanese by defusing tensions and pursuing violators of security in various regions," Aoun added.
He said Lebanon's allies still "see the army as the primary guarantor of Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability." The Lebanese Army regularly receives financial aid from a range of countries, most notably the US, Qatar, Italy, France and Turkey.
Aoun is set to retire on Jan. 10, 2024 amid growing fears of a leadership vacuum as Chief of Staff Major Gen. Amin al-Aram, who is supposed to replace the Army Chief in his absence, retired six months ago. No one has replaced Aram, as caretaker Defense Minister Maurice Slim and some others oppose making top-level appointments during a period of presidential vacancy.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also offered words of praise for Army Day, also calling on the "liberation" of occupied Lebanese territory from Israeli forces.