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Biden authorises nearly $50m in aid to Lebanon's cash-strapped army

US president issued a memorandum to provide up to $25m in goods and services to the Lebanese army, and $22m in defence materials
The Lebanese army is paying the equivalent of $84 dollars per month to soldiers
The Lebanese army is reportedly paying the equivalent of $84 dollars per month to soldiers (AFP/File photo)

US President Joe Biden has authorised an aid package worth $47 million to Lebanon's military, as the country's economic meltdown forces many soldiers into poverty.

Biden issued a memorandum on Tuesday directing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to withdraw up to $25 million in goods and services from the US government to provide immediate assistance to the Lebanese army.

He also approved the withdrawal of up to $22 million in defence materials and supplies to be given immediately to the Lebanese army.

According to a recent report, the Lebanese military is paying the equivalent of $84 dollars per month to enlisted soldiers.

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While the Lebanese pound has since 1997 been pegged at 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, the country's worst economic crisis since its civil war has seen its unofficial value plunge.

But with the currency on the black market now hovering around 20,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, the army salary now places the average soldier below the poverty line.

The Lebanese military is a key institution and source of stability in Lebanon, but it is increasingly cash-strapped as the country sinks deeper into recession.

In July, the army began offering $150 scenic helicopter flights to raise much-needed extra funds. And last year, it stopped serving meat to troops due to rising food prices.

In a seperate development on Wednesday, Egypt's foreign minister announced Cairo would "be ready to transfer gas [to Lebanon] as soon as possible" via the transnational Arab Gas Pipeline.

Fuel and power shortages are one of the most acute symptoms of Lebanon's economic collapse, paralysing vital services such as hospitals.