State Department Announces $70 Million Aid to Syrian Opposition Groups

AP Photo
AP Photo

Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken announced a plan to provide the Syrian opposition with $70 million in non-lethal aid. If Congress approves the aid, the grand total of aid to Syria in the past four years will amount to $400 million.

A State Department media release described the assistance:

  • Nearly $30 million to enable opposition and local governance structures inside Syria to provide basic services to their communities, as well as ongoing support for civil defense workers who play a critical role in emergency first response in Syria.
  • $25 million in non-lethal support to vetted units of the armed opposition to help enhance their operational capabilities as they seek to protect their communities from the duel threat posed by the Assad regime and extremist groups.
  • Digital security training and tools to keep activists, civil society members, journalists, and other opposition actors safe as they seek to network with each other and share information, including about regime and other atrocities.

“As we have long said, Assad must go and be replaced through a negotiated political transition that is representative of the Syrian people,” explained Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

The announcement occurred on the fourth anniversary of the Syrian Civil War. Over 200,000 people are dead due to the conflict, while as many as 11 million left their homes. The war allowed radical Islamic groups, more extreme than al-Qaeda, to emerge on the front stage. The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) controls the majority of northern Syria, including the large city of Raqqa.

Blinken did not mention how the United States can keep the non-lethal aid out of the hands of the Islamic State or al-Nusra. The United States considers the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to be the moderate group, but Blinkin also did not specify if the aid is for them.