Challenges Ahead for Lebanon Peacekeeping Force Lebanese and Israeli civilians continued to return to their homes on the second day of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire. As plans begin to take shape for a U.N. peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Lebanese border, key questions remain about the force's mandate and possible effectiveness.
NPR logo Challenges Ahead for Lebanon Peacekeeping Force

Challenges Ahead for Lebanon Peacekeeping Force

Hear NPR's Eric Westervelt in northern Israel, along the border with Lebanon.

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Hear Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution and NPR's Steve Inskeep

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The U.N. cease-fire in the Middle East held up for a second day, paving the way for Lebanese and Israeli civilians from the border region to return home.

NPR's correspondents report that tens of thousands of Lebanese continue their migration back to the southern areas of the country. In the north of Israel, people are emerging from bomb shelters. Israeli officials are encouraging people to return to their daily lives. But civilians on both sides of the border remain skeptical about what comes next.

Changes at the Border

Israel began pulling some forces out of parts of Lebanon on Tuesday. Under the U.N. resolution and cease-fire agreement, Israel will withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon as U.N. forces and Lebanese troops take control of the region.

The current international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon will be bolstered from 2,000 to 15,000. Their job will be to work with a force of 15,000 Lebanese troops to prevent any illegal weapons from entering the region, to contain Hezbollah and to reassert the Lebanese government's control over the south of Lebanon.

Israeli officials say plans call for the U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, to be deployed in the next couple of days to areas of Lebanon captured by Israel in the conflict. At the same time, Israeli officials say the Lebanese army is expected to begin deploying south of the Litani River, as Israeli troops pull back.

But there are real concerns over just what the peacekeeping force can achieve.

Challenges for Peacekeeping Force

Kori Schake is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. She told NPR's Steve Inskeep that the U.N. resolution is vague enough to allow all parties to save face and buy time, but that it is unlikely to usher in any kind of long-term peace.

Schake says the primary challenge will be articulating the mandate of the mission. If the objectives of the United Nations in Lebanon are purely political, then she says 30,000 troops are unnecessary.

If the objectives aren't political, Schake says, the U.N. force should be granted the authority to use force under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. The current U.N. resolution does not evoke Chapter 7. Schake says that could tie the hands of international troops in southern Lebanon, making it difficult to achieve their objectives.

There are also issues about the make-up of the peacekeeping force itself. France is taking a leadership role and plans deploy some 4,000 troops to the Lebanese-Israeli border region next week.

But it's still not clear which other countries will contribute the remaining 11,000 troops. Schake says the effectiveness of the mission could be diluted, because each country has its own rules of engagement that dictate how and when troops can use force.

Reigning In Hezbollah

Another major issue, says Schake, is the ability of the Lebanese army to contain Hezbollah.

"If the Lebanese had the capacity to do this, they would have been doing it before now," she says. "Having outsourced the security of southern Lebanon to Hezbollah, it's not clear to me that the Lebanese forces have either the capacity or the domestic support to carry this out."

In much of Lebanon, Hezbollah is being cast as the winner of this war, having survived Israel's attempts to wipe it out. Analysts say this could bolster public support for Hezbollah and make it more difficult for the Lebanese government to push the issue of disarmament.

Israeli sources told NPR's Eric Westervelt that the Israeli army hopes to complete a full withdrawal by the end of next week. Whether or not that happens depends on several factors, including the capacity of the international force in southern Lebanon, the commitment of the Lebanese government, and the sticking power of what remains a fragile cease-fire agreement.