US extends $350 million Saudi training mission, and multi-million dollar Humvees sale to cash-strapped Lebanon

US extends $350 million Saudi training mission, and multi-million dollar Humvees sale to cash-strapped Lebanon
The US State Department has agreed more multi-million sales to Middle East states.
2 min read
02 December, 2020
The US-Saudi training mission has been extended [Getty]

The US State Department on Tuesday gave the green light to $1.55 billion in arms sales and military training, including to Middle East countries Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Among the foreign military sales cleared by the US government was the extension of a $350 million training package for the Saudi military.

The US Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia (USMTM) is based in the capital Riyadh, with around 330 US personnel and contractors working from the centre to train the Saudi military.

The State Department gave the green light for a five-year extension of the programme which includes salaries for "U.S. Military, U.S. Government, and Foreign National staff members", according to the Defense News website.

It also covers administrative costs, logistical support, and taxes, as well as "future transition costs to move USMTM" to a new location in the kingdom.

US Central Command, on its website, describes the mission as a "unique security assistance (SA) and security cooperation (SC) organization under the authority of the chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission".

Its aim is to "train, advise and assist" Saudi Arabia's military, one of the best-funded in the world and a significant buyer of US arms.

"Our mission is to enhance U.S. national security through building the capability and capacity of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (SAAF) to defend our common interests in the Middle East region," it adds.

Saudi Arabia and the US are firm allies, with decades of close political and military cooperation.

This relationship has been brought under the spotlight in the US due to Saudi Arabia's leading role in the bloody war in Yemen - where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed - and human rights abuses.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency website also confirmed the $55.5 million sale of 300 M1152 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles to Lebanon.

Better known as Humvees, the light armoured miltary truck is used extensively by Lebanon's military in "counter violent extremist organizations and to secure its border", according to Defense News.

Lebanon already operates 1,000 Humvees, and the latest consignment will be distributed in two batches of 150 each.

It is the first FMS sale to Lebanon under the Donald Trump administration, which comes amid tensions between the Beirut and Washington governments.

The US has enacted sanctions on leading Lebanese political figures including Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil - President Michel Aoun's son-in-law - over accusations of "significant corruption".

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