Special Forces of the Levant

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Military group under the French mandate in Lebanon.

After France gained control of Lebanon through the mandate from the League of Nations, it formed the Troupes Spéciales du Levant, which recruited Lebanese and Syrian soldiers and was commanded almost exclusively by French officers. It was devised to legitimize French police and military activities in the region and to give the impression of local rule. The percentage of officers who were Lebanese or Syrian increased over the years although the power of command and control remained in French hands. By 1945, 90 percent of the officers in the 14,000-strong Special Forces were Arabs.

During World War II, Lebanese Special Forces troops were ordered to fight on the side of the Vichy French against the British and Free French. When the Vichy forces in the Middle East surrendered in 1941, volunteers from the Special Forces were recruited by the Free French to fight actively in North Africa, Italy, and southern France. In 1945 three thousand Lebanese troops in the Special Forces formed the nucleus of the Lebanese Army.

as'ad abukhalil