David Hale
David Hale Reuters

The US State Department on Monday criticized the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group for digging tunnels into Israel and stockpiling rockets, Reuters reported.

"While Lebanon has the right to defend itself, that is the right of the Lebanese state alone," said David Hale, US under secretary of state for political affairs, after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri in Beirut.

"It is unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state, and unanswerable to all people of Lebanon digging attack tunnels across the blue line to Israel or assembling an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles with which to threaten regional stability," he added, according to Reuters.

In December, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield in order to dismantle terrorist tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israeli territory.

On Sunday, the end of the operation was announced after Israeli troops discovered six tunnels dug by Hezbollah into Israeli territory.

Hezbollah, in addition to its military wing, also has a strong political presence in Lebanon. Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in election last May. Hariri was tasked with forming the next coalition despite his party’s significant losses in the vote.

Hezbollah is expected to get three ministries in the upcoming cabinet for the first time.

Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, included Iranian-backed Hezbollah in his last cabinet as well.

Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the West and even by some Arab countries, but some of those designations, most notably in the EU and in Britain, make a distinction between Hezbollah’s “military wing” and its political arm.

Hale's visit to Beirut comes as Lebanese politicians continue to jostle over the formation of a new coalition government more than eight months after an election.

Lebanon's failure to form a new government was dragging down the economy and "endangering the country", Hale said, according to Reuters. He urged the caretaker government to move forward on the economy to maintain international confidence.