Lebanon Again Top Recipient of U.S. Training in 2012

Middle East and North Africa

This post extracts key trends and information from the Middle East and North Africa portion of the 2012 Foreign Military Training Report, which details United States military and police training activities around the world.

The top recipients of U.S. training in 2012 – Lebanon and the Gulf States:

U.S. Military and Police Trainees in MENA

(To see the numbers underlying these graphics, view our tables of trainees by country and by aid program.)

In 2012, Lebanon was the number one recipient of U.S. military and police training. Similar to 2010, the U.S. trained over 2,000 Lebanese security officers and officials in 2012, though this number drops to less than 600 trainees in other years, including 2011. Other major recipients of training are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which saw significant increases in trainees (from 1,320 in 2011 to 2,031 in 2012 for Saudi Arabia and from 473 to 1,041 for the UAE). As discussed in the next section, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE receive training almost exclusively from the Foreign Military Sales program.

According to a recent White House factsheet, the U.S. provides a substantial security assistance package, including training, to the Lebanese Armed Forces in an effort to try and cement the institution’s role as “Lebanon’s sole legitimate defense force,” and Lebanese politicians consistently make the case that strengthening the armed forces would convince Hezbollah to lay down its arms. Both U.S. training of and U.S. security assistance to Lebanese security forces swelled considerably in 2007, though a smaller increase in both started prior to 2007. A State Department factsheet ties the increase in security assistance directly to fallout from the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, stating this large assistance package is meant to “support the Government of Lebanon as it carries out the requirements of UNSCR 1701 and asserts its sovereignty over the whole of Lebanese territory.” Earlier this year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey further recommended that Lebanon receive additional training and equipment from the U.S. to help it face the challenges posed by the Syrian civil war, and if his recommendations were adopted, we would likely see another high number of Lebanese trainees in 2013.

Sixty-five percent of training to Lebanon in 2012 came through the Defense Department’s Section 1004 counternarcotics program, which trained 1,350 Lebanese forces. Section 1004 trained soldiers from Lebanon’s Marines, Air Force, Ranger Regiment and Counterterrorism Department with various tactical skills such as “breaching, long range precision fires, land navigation, etc.” according to the FMTR’s details section (pdf). Section 1004 has not always been the top program providing training to Lebanon’s forces. In 2010, the U.S. trained 2,010 of a total 2,662 trainees in Lebanon through the Foreign Military Sales program.

The top U.S. training program in the region – Foreign Military Sales:

U.S. Military and Police Trainees in MENA by Program
(To see the numbers underlying these graphics, view our tables of trainees by country and by aid program.)

The top U.S. training program in the region since 2008 has been Foreign Military Sales (FMS). In 2012, 4,710 military and police forces in the region received FMS training. This amounts to over three times as much as the next program (Section 1004 with a total of 1,350 trainees) and makes up over 50 percent of all training in the region (all other programs combined trained 4,031 security personnel in 2012). Through the FMS program, a country can purchase “professional military education as well as technical training related to equipment purchases sold . . .  via the FMS program.” The Gulf Monarchies obtain a vast majority of their training through the FMS program, in particular the United Arab Emirates (1,034 trainees) and Saudi Arabia (2,001 trainees). The recently announced multi-year training of 5,000-8,000 Libyan soldiers will also be paid through FMS (pdf), so this training may appear in the FMTR in future installments. Unfortunately, the unclassified portion of the FMTR does not include FMS training details, so the types of courses and specific units trained via the FMS program is unavailable.

Training after the Arab Spring:

U.S. Military and Police Trainees in Select Arab Spring Countries

In theory, the 2012 FMTR would provide a first glance at U.S. training in the region after the Arab Spring. One notices that a number of countries that experienced leadership changes in 2011 (namely Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen) all saw an increase in trainees, while other countries that experienced Arab Spring protests, but did not see a change in leadership (such as Morocco, Jordan, and Bahrain), saw a decrease in trainees.

However, these countries experienced prior fluctuations in training, so it is difficult to determine whether the changes reflect a U.S. policy response to the Arab Spring. For instance, the Defense Department suspended some security assistance activities in Yemen in 2011 due to the deteriorating security situation in the country (pdf), which may explain the 70 percent surge in trainees in 2012 (from 220 to 375). For Egypt and Tunisia, though, the increase in training in 2012 does not seem extraordinary compared to fluctuations in past years.

Tunisia’s 180 trainees in 2012 were 11 percent higher than the average number of trainees between 2000 and 2011 (161.5), though much lower than the 348 Tunisian troops the U.S. trained in 2007. After 2007, that number fell as low as 100 in 2009, with the number of trainees increasing every year since.

Egypt, meanwhile, saw an increase of nearly 40 percent in trainees between 2011 and 2012 (from 620 to 862). However, the number of Egyptian trainees has bounced back and forth for several years. In 2011, the number of trainees decreased by 24 percent (from 821 to 620), following a 25 percent increase in trainees in 2010 (from 658 to 821).  As such, it is hard to spot a trend simply by looking at trainee totals from the FMTR.

Another look at the U.S. military engagement with Egypt:

Even though Egypt was the fourth most trained country in the region in 2012, U.S. training only reaches a small percentage of Egyptian troops. While Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. security assistances and many of its top military officers have participated in U.S. training programs, a comparison between the number of students trained and the size of the armed forces in each Middle Eastern country shows that U.S. engagement with the Egyptian military is actually one of the smallest in the region in terms students trained. Since the FMTR includes training to military and police forces, as well as ministry staff, the chart below represents a very rough estimate of the percent of the armed forces trained by the U.S. in 2012. Nonetheless, the chart supports an assertion by a recent Atlantic Council report on U.S. defense cooperation with Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, which stated, “the military-to-military relationship [with Egypt] is notably lacking in depth."

Country 2012 U.S. Trainees 2012 Armed Forces Size Percentage of Armed Forces Trained
Lebanon 2,056 60,000 3.43%


1,041 51,000 2.04%
Saudi Arabia 2,031 233,500 0.87%
Bahrain 60 8,200 0.73%
Kuwait 103 15,500 0.66%
Jordan 572 100,500 0.57%
Yemen 375 66,700 0.56%
Qatar 62 11,800 0.53%
Tunisia 180 35,800 0.50%
Oman 153 42,600 0.36%
Israel 615 176,500 0.35%
Egypt 862 438,500 0.20%
Iraq 325 271,400


Morocco 178 195,800


Algeria 57 130,000 0.04%