Upon an invitation from the Presidency of the Council of Minister, the preparatory meeting of the high-level ministerial conference to be held in Rome to support the army and the security and military forces, under the auspices of the International support group for Lebanon, was held this morning at the Grand Serail.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Arab League, the United Nations, the European Union, UNIFIL, the United States, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Argentine, Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Holland, Oman, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Britain, Algeria, Armenia, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Korea, Morocco, Norway, Russia, Spain and Switzerland.

The first session was headed by the Minister of Interior Nouhad Machnouk, with the participation of the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti, Lebanon’s Ambassador to Rome Mira Daher, the Director General of the Internal Security Forces Major General Imad Osman, and UN representative Alexander Costy, in the presence of ambassadors, security attaches and representatives of the states and international organizations participating in the Rome conference.

During the session, the five-year strategic plan of the ISF was presented. At the onset of the meeting, the Director of the Internal Security Forces Institute and Head of the Strategic Planning Team, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Hajjar, presented the outline of the plan.

Minister Machnouk then gave the following speech:

“The ISF recently celebrated their 156th birthday. As such, it is not only one of the most established state institutions in Lebanon, but also one of its oldest, having preceded the foundation of Greater Lebanon by nearly six decades.

Despite its old age, it has not receded into decay, but rather grown – as generations of Lebanese have done – to face the multiplicity of challenges Lebanon has dealt with throughout its history.

Ever since my first day in office as Minister of Interior and Municipalities, I have set a strategic objective by which my tenure would hopefully be defined.

The goal was to develop the institution of the ISF, and look beyond its day-to-day operations to strategize on a medium to long-term level with the stated objective of establishing a more solid foundation for the relationship between the institution and Lebanon’s citizens.

Consequently, the five-year plan that is presented to you today represents a comprehensive developmental plan that seeks to advance the ISF into a modernized, professionalized, twenty-first century institution.

It aims first and foremost at solidifying the trust-based relationship with all of Lebanon’s citizens, who ought to become increasingly convinced that the police’s primary objective is to serve them.”

He added: “It is not an exaggeration to claim that amidst many of Lebanon’s troubles, there remains a spectacular success story that needs to be told. It’s a story of the safety and security of the country’s people, through which they were spared the numerous tragedies, civil conflicts and expansionist designs raging all across the Middle East.

This despite of the fact that Lebanon has had to deal with an unprecedented refugee crisis, with all of the untested challenges it brought to bear. Over the past three years, Lebanon’s security forces were able to arrest over 300 suspects of terrorist activity and dismantle more than 60 terrorist networks operating all over the country’s territory.

The primary credit for those accomplishments undoubtedly goes to the officers and soldiers of the ISF, who have been working tirelessly, alongside their colleagues in the LAF, to ensure Lebanon’s safety and stability. Secondary credit, however, should be attributed to the strategic vision designed and implemented by the Ministry of Interior over the past four years. This strategy was based on three complimentary pillars.

The first was the unprecedented collaboration between the ISF and the LAF. The MOI succeeded in fomenting high-level coordination between the two institutions, whereas we can now attest to a continuous exchange of sensitive information and a series of jointly coordinated operations targeting terrorist cells operating in Lebanon. This partnership began under the leadership of former Army Chief General Kahwaji and now continues with his successor, General Aoun.

The second pillar is the development of the ISF’s technical and technological abilities. As you are well aware, the war on terror is nowadays a ‘war of minds’ as much as it is a ‘war of muscles’. We have all witnessed the exceptional preventive operations conducted by the intelligence apparatus of the ISF, using electronic surveillance and other means at their disposal. We have also witnessed the exceptional speed with which the ISF uncovered the perpetrators behind the latest Saida assassination attempt of a high-level Hamas operative as well as the spectacular, five-months long operation through which the ISF managed to recruit a leading ISIS operative, which led to the foiling of numerous terrorist attacks.

The third and final pillar is the development of the ISF’s training capabilities. Today, the ISF’s training center is a highly equipped and professional institution that serves both the members of the police but also other security agencies working in Lebanon.”

He continued: “Serving citizens. Establishing trust. Building partnerships. These three objectives embody the five-year strategic plan of the ISF, which is the result of four years of continuous efforts and hard work to bring the institution into the standard required of a world-class police force in the 21st century. All of the ISF’s managerial units – working together through the Strategic Planning Team- have been involved in the creation of this comprehensive project, which begins by establishing the strategic vision of the ISF, and then proceeds to outline the necessary schemes through which that vision can be achieved.

This project, which began under the supervision of former ISF chief General Basbous, and is being announced today under the leadership of General Othman, confirms the institutional nature of the ISF’s development and certifies that no matter the person leading the ISF or the MOI in the future, the strategic vision shall continue to be implemented in the service of Lebanon and its citizens.

The ISF’s five-year strategic plan is at the core of our vision for a strong, capable Lebanese state, one that monopolizes the ability and legitimacy to use force on Lebanon’s territory. As we present it to you today, we look forward to the day in which all illegal arms are under strict state control. Additionally, we aspire to the day in which the LAF can return to its military barracks, solely devoting its efforts to the defense of Lebanon’s borders and territorial integrity. When that day comes, the ISF shall be the sole body responsible for the safety and security of all of Lebanon’s citizens and its residents.

As we approach the Rome Conference, we ought to stress that we view this gathering of Lebanon’s friends as a historic opportunity to establish solid foundations for the Lebanese security sector, through the provision of necessary military and security-related equipment to the ISF and the LAF. This is turn shall enable us to provide a safer future to Lebanon and the world. Leading those efforts is the information branch of the ISF, which has been renowned for its sheer professional excellence, and has successfully cooperated with its counterparts in different areas of the world.”

He concluded: “Last but not least, this foundational work could not have come to life without the dedicated support of our international partners, especially in the United Kingdom, with which we look forward to more productive and comprehensive cooperation in the future. As Lebanon’s struggles with numerous challenges, namely the surrounding civil conflicts, the ongoing terrorist threats, and the unending refugee crisis, maintaining the security and safety of Lebanon is a domestic as well as an international responsibility. Therefore, let’s move forward together towards a safer, more prosperous future for both Lebanon and the world.Thank you.”

Source: National News Agency