A. Principal Findings.
Since the 23 October 1983 bombing of the BLT Headquarters building, numerous security measures and actions have been planned and implemented by the operational chain of command to increase the security of U.S. military forces in Lebanon against recurrence of a catastrophic terrorist attack. USMNF and other U.S. forces have been repositioned and dispersed within the Beirut International Airport area. Many support personnel have been returned to ships offshore. Major construction by U.S. navy Seabees of perimeter positions, protective bunkers, barrier obstacles is ongoing. Security procedures in the areas of access control, searches, and response to threat warnings have been examined and improved. Additionally, more responsible ROE, similar to those previously approved for use at the Embassy, have been issued to all personnel.
The enhanced security measures were taken in the face of a steadily growing threat. intelligence assessment of 1 December 1983 determined that the threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in Lebanon remains extremely high and is increasing. The political, military, cultural and religious environment in and around Beirut is inherently conducive to a broad spectrum of options for states, indigenous factions and extremist groups seeking to thwart U.S. objectives in Lebanon by attacking the US. That environment makes the task of detecting and defending against threats in general, and terrorist attacks in particular, extremely difficult. It therefore becomes increasingly costly for the USMNF to maintain an acceptable level of security for the force while continuing to provide a visible peace-keeping presence in Beirut, to sustain the Government of Lebanon, and to actively support the LAF.
The USMNF has remained essentially static, occupying the same terrain since its insertion into Lebanon in September 1982. The Marines continue to be positioned at the BIA, bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the heavily traveled coastal road, on the north by the slums of the Shia and Palestinian suburbs of Beirut, and on the east and south by the old Sidon Road and the Druze controlled coastal
BIA is undermined by a labyrinth of tunnels. Prior to the recent Israeli invasion, numerous factions, including the PLO and Syrians, occupied BIA and the BLT Headquarters building. The static nature of the USMNF under the continuous observation of numerous hostile factions and within range of their weapons, results in a constant high threat environment for the USMNF. This threat is exacerbated by the familiarity with, and access to the dominant terrain, and to BIA itself, by hostile factions.
Activities to reduce the vulnerability of the USMNF fall into six categories:
Dispersal of troops has taken the form of redistribution of activities within the BIA area to present a less concentrated target, and the removal to ships offshore of all personnel whose presence is not considered immediately required to operate the USMNF ashore. The redistribution is proceeding as protected work and living spaces are constructed, but has the disadvantage of placing some troops in structures which are more vulnerable to indirect fire than the concrete buildings which they vacated.
Construction of protective structures, including work spaces, living accommodations and fighting positions, has received attention by utilizing a variety of protective measures. Traditional sandbagging, dirt berms, locally fabricated wooden frames to support sandbags and a dirt covering, and large SeaTrain containers (obtained from the
Actions taken to improve security procedures include closing two lanes of the main airport road which runs adjacent to the MAU area, thereby creating a buffer zone; restricting vehicular access in the MAU perimeter to U.S. vehicles only; blocking al but essential entrances to the area; excluding non-essential civilians; relocating LAF personnel outside of the perimeter; and employing spot U.S. roadblocks and vehicle searches on the main airport road.
ROE are addressed separately in PART TWO of this report.
An integrated obstacle and barrier plan has been devised to complement the other security measures discussed above.
The Commission concludes that the security measures taken since 23 October 1983 have reduced the vulnerability of the USMNF to catastrophic losses. The Commission concludes, however, that the security measures implemented or planned for implementation for the USMNF as of 30 November 1983, are not adequate to prevent continuing significant attrition of the force.
The Commission recognizes that the current disposition of USMNF forces, may, after careful examination, probe the best available option. The Commission concludes, however, that a comprehensive set of alternatives should be immediately prepared and presented to the National Security Council.
Recognizing that the Secretary of Defense and the JCS have been actively reassessing the increased vulnerability of the USMNF as the political/military environment in Lebanon has changed, the Commission recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the operational chain of command to continue to develop alternative military options for both accomplishing the mission of the USMNF and reducing the risk to the force.