Army of Free Lebanon

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Army of Free Lebanon (AFL)
Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)
Active Until 1978
Groups Lebanese Front
Leaders Antoine Barakat, Fouad Malek, Saad Haddad
Headquarters Fayadieh (East Beirut)
Strength 3,000 men
Originated as 500 men
Allies Al-Tanzim, Marada Brigade, Tigers Militia, Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), Lebanese Forces
Opponents Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian Army

The Army of Free Lebanon – AFL (Arabic: جيش لبنان الحر transliteration Jaiysh Lubnan al-Horr) or ‘Colonel Barakat’s Army’ (Arabic: جيش بركات transliteration Jaiysh Barakat), also designated Armée du Liban Libre (ALL) or ‘Armée du Colonel Barakat’ in French, was a predominantely Christian splinter faction of the Lebanese Army that came to play a major role in the 1975-77 phase of the Lebanese Civil War.

Emblem[edit]

Upon its formation, the AFL adopted as logo a rectangular (or square) red and blue ‘flash’ with a stylished white cedar tree in the middle, which was hastily painted on its armoured and transport vehicles. Sometimes the motto ‘Free Lebanon’ (Arabic: Lubnan al-Horr) written in Arabic script was painted alongside the flash on the hull and turret of the tanks.

Origins[edit]

The AFL was created on January 23, 1976 in Beirut by Lebanese Colonel Antoine Barakat who declared loyalty to the then President of Lebanon Suleiman Frangieh. A Maronite from Frangieh’s hometown Zgharta, Barakat rose with the troops of the Beirut Command in response for Lieutenant Ahmed al-Khatib’s rebellion two days earlier at the head of the breakway Lebanese Arab Army (LAA). Another officer, the head of Jounieh garrison Major Fouad Malek, supported the Barakat-led faction, as did Major Saad Haddad the commander of the Marjayoun garrison in the south.

Structure[edit]

Unit organization[edit]

Headquartered at Fayadieh barracks, a major military facility situated in the vinicty of the Ministry of Defense complex at Yarze, the AFL numbered some 3,000 uniformed regulars, mostly Christian Maronites and Greek-Catholics. Like the LAA, the AFL retained much of the regimental structure of the old Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), with the bulk of the force comprising some 2,000 soldiers in four battalions and a company-sized contingent from the Army Para-commando regiment (Arabic: فوج المغاوير transliteration Fauj al-Maghaweer) being allocated at Fayadieh, serving under Col. Barakat’s direct orders.

Outside Beirut, a 500-strong battalion was based at Jounieh barracks headed by Maj. Malek, whilst another battalion of equal strength led by Maj. Haddad was stationed at Marjayoun barracks.

Weapons and equipment[edit]

Each fraction fielded conventional armour, infantry and artillery companies, provided with Panhard AML-90 and Staghound armoured cars,[1] AMX-13[2] and M41 Walker Bulldog[3] light tanks, M42 Duster SPAAGs, and tracked M113 and AMX-VCI or wheeled Panhard M3 VTT armoured personnel carriers.

For logistical support, Col.Barakat’s troops relied on US M151A1 MUTT light jeeps, British Land-Rover Mk I-IIA light pick-ups, plus heavier Saviem SM8 TRM 4000 4x4, Berliet GBC 8KT 6x6, Soviet KrAZ 255 6x6[4] and US M35A2 2-1/2 ton 6x6 cargo trucks. These liaison and transport vehicles were also employed as gun-trucks in the direct fire support role on AFL ground operations, fitted with heavy machine guns (HMGs), recoilless rifles, and a few anti-aircraft autocannons.[5]

The artillery formations fielded British QF Mk III 25 Pounder field guns, French Mle 1950 BF-50 155mm howitzers and British Bofors 40 mm L/60 anti-aircraft guns.

The AFL in the Lebanese civil war 1976-78[edit]

Closely allied with the Christian rightist militias of the Lebanese Front, the AFL battled the leftist Lebanese National Movement (LNM), the LAA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrilla factions at Beirut, but also fought in northern Lebanon.

In early March 1976, a number of Christian AFL soldiers from the Jounieh garrison even departed without permission from their commanding Officer to their home towns of Kobayat and Andakat in the Akkar region of Northern Lebanon, which were being threatened by LAA attacks.[6][7] That same month, Barakat’s troops bolstered the hard-pressed Republican Guard battalion and Marada Brigade militiamen loyal to President Frangieh in defending the Presidential Palace at Baabda from a two-pronged combined LNM-LAA assault, though prior to the attack the President had decamped to the safety of Jounieh.[8] They also provided armour and artillery support to the Christian militias on the closing stages of the Battle of the Hotels[9] during which an artillery barrage fired by a unit under Barakat's command struck the campus of the American University of Beirut, causing a number of casualties among the students, and later in the sieges of the PLO-held Palestinian refugee camps of Jisr el-Basha and Tel al-Zaatar at East Beirut between June and August 1976.[10]

During the “Hundred Days War” in early February 1978, the AFL was itself besieged and bombarded by the Syrian Army in their Fayadieh barracks, though they later helped the NLP Tigers and the newly constituted Lebanese Forces’ Command in driving the Syrians out from East Beirut.[11]

Disbandment[edit]

On March 1977, the newly elected President of Lebanon Elias Sarkis began slowly to reorganize the battered Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) structure, which had split into four sectarian factions.[12] The first fraction of the AFL to be re-integrated into the official battle order of the re-organized Lebanese Army in June 1977 was the Jounieh garrison, whose commander Fouad Malek was promoted to Colonel and sent to the École de Guerre in Paris, where he deserted in 1978 to become the head of the Lebanese Forces (LF) official representation at the French Capital.[13] In March 1978 at Beirut, Col. Barakat handed over the Fayadieh barracks back to the official authorities, thus effectively signalling the disbandment of the AFL and the return of his troops to the LAF structure. Barakat was then appointed as Military Attache to the Lebanese Embassy in Washington DC, where he retired.

A different fate however, awaited the ex-AFL troops of the Marjayoun garrison in the south. By late 1976, pressure from PLO and LNM-LAA militias finally forced Major Saad Haddad to evacuate the town and withdraw unopposed to the town of Qlayaa, close to the border with Israel. Here Major Haddad and his men placed themselves under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), eventually providing the cadre – after merging with local Christian, Shia Muslim and Druze militias – of the so-called ‘Free Lebanese Army’ (FLA), otherwise known as the South Lebanon Army (SLA).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://milinme.wordpress.com/category/staghound/ – Colonel Barakat’s Army Staghound Mk.III armoured car near Binayit el-Béton, East Beirut, March 1976.
  2. ^ http://scale35.blogspot.com/2009/05/amx-13-tell-el-zaatar.html – AMX-13 light tank of the Army of Free Lebanon at the siege of Tel al-Zaatar, East Beirut, July 1976.
  3. ^ http://scale35.blogspot.com/2009/05/bulldog-in-aswek.html – M41 Walker Bulldog tank of the Army of Free Lebanon in the streets of the Aswek (the old city center of Beirut) c.1976.
  4. ^ Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, p. 9.
  5. ^ http://www.warwheels.net/Model_M35A2wBoforsASSAD.html - 1/35 Model Photos of a Lebanese Special Forces AA QF Bofors 40mm gun mounted on a M35A2 Gun Truck.
  6. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 45.
  7. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 37.
  8. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), pp. 46-47.
  9. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), pp. 54 and 56-57.
  10. ^ http://forum.tayyar.org/f8/facts-ag-tal-el-za3tar-28096/index2.html.
  11. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), pp. 72-73.
  12. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 63.
  13. ^ Micheletti and Debay, Les Forces Libanaises, RAIDS magazine (1989), p. 34 (box).

References[edit]

  • Alain Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban: Du coup d'état de Béchir Gémayel aux massacres des camps palestiniens, Albin Michel, Paris 2004. ISBN 978-2226121271 (in French)
  • Edgar O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975–92, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. ISBN 0-333-72975-7
  • Éric Micheletti and Yves Debay, Liban – dix jours aux cœur des combats, RAIDS magazine n.º41, October 1989 issue. ISSN 0769-4814 (in French)
  • Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 9953-0-1256-8
  • Philipe Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, Steelmasters Magazine, August–September 2012, pp. 8–16. ISSN: 1962-4654
  • Rex Brynen, Sanctuary and Survival: the PLO in Lebanon, Boulder: Westview Press, 1990.
  • Samer Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon, Beirut: Elite Group, 2003.
  • Samer Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon 1975-1981, L’Echo des Cedres, Beirut 2011. ISBN 978-1-934293-06-5

Further reading[edit]

  • Leila Haoui Zod, William Haoui, temoin et martyr, Mémoire DEA, Faculté d'Histoire, Université Saint Esprit, Kaslik, Liban 2004. (in French)