October 25, 2018
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The White House will be notifying lawmakers of the president’s decision

There are now several reports stating that President Donald Trump will be canceling the $200 million worth of foreign aid that was set aside to “stabilize” the war-torn nation of Syria.

The AP is reporting that officials with knowledge of the move have said that the White House will be notifying lawmakers of the president’s decision to withhold the funding and spend it elsewhere.

Here is more on this aid package via The Daily Caller:

“President Donald Trump’s administration will withdraw funding for aid programs in northwestern Syria, according to reports from administration officials.

The funding cuts are to the State Department’s “stabilization” programs in northwestern Syria, reported CBS News, citing administration officials. The programs include countering violent extremism, supporting independent media, as well as strengthening local civic and government institutions.

At Trump’s request, the State Department has been reviewing areas in Syria where the U.S. can scale back its financial commitments while focusing its efforts on areas liberated from the Islamic State. As the programs in northwestern Syria are phased out in the coming months, the money will be shifted to help support the counter-ISIS mission in northeast Syria.

The move to cut funding for northwestern Syria comes after Trump froze over $200 million in recovery aid for the entire country in late March. State Department officials said the latest cuts are “distinct from that amount.”

The State Department told CBS that “$200 million of stabilization assistance for Syria is currently under review at the request of the President.”

“Distinct from that amount, U.S. assistance for programs in northwest Syria are being freed up to provide potential increased support for priorities in northeast Syria, as will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing assistance review, including the D-ISIS campaign and stabilization efforts,” according to the report.

Because it has already been cleared of ISIS militants, northwestern Syria is not seen as a priority for the Trump administration, which has sought a narrower mission of fighting the remnants of ISIS in the country’s eastern half. The northwest is also an extraordinarily complex place, partially under Syrian government control but also home to Idlib, a rebel stronghold, and Afrin, where Turkish forces have been battling U.S.-backed Kurdish militia groups.

Washington has provided almost $900 million in non-lethal and stabilization aid to Syrian assistance since 2012, according to the State Department. Funding for humanitarian aid, which is distinct from the stabilization programs, will continue, administration officials said.

“We remain committed to countering ISIS and al-Qaida, in Syria and elsewhere,” a State Department official told Axios. “We will continue to provide life-saving, needs based, humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Syrians, including those in northwest Syria.”

The $200 million in recovery aid was originally pledged by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a February meeting of the US.-led coalition to defeat ISIS. But we are now starting to learn that only weeks later, the White House ordered the State Department to delay the funds pending the outcome of a spending review.

The Daily Caller reports:

“The cancellation of stabilization funding is in line with Trump’s inclination to avoid a leading role in the Syrian war. While he has stopped short of withdrawing the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria, he has repeatedly signaled a desire to let other governments take the lead in post-war reconstruction.

The loss of U.S. funding will be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by coalition partners, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, according to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“Many coalition partners have made pledges and contributions in recent months and the United States appreciates all partners who have stepped up to support this critical effort,” she told the AP.

The proper extent of U.S. involvement in Syria has been an open question in Washington for several years, but the debate has taken on new urgency as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nears victory in the seven-year war. Backed by Russian and Iranian forces, Assad has regained control of most of central and southern Syria, leaving only pockets of rebel territory in the northwest and a U.S.-backed Kurdish autonomous region in the east.”

The cancellation of stabilization funding is just one more promise kept by the Trump White House. Where he pledged to avoid having the U.S. take a leading role in the Syrian war. Although he did not withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria nor did he mention any withdrawal in the future, he has repeatedly said he his goal is to let other governments take the lead in the post-war reconstruction of a nation which is far from being stable.

Although the loss of these funds will be felt it will be offset by an additional $300 million which has already been pledged by coalition partners. One of which includes Saudi Arabia who has pledged $100 million.

The AP is reporting that in acknowledgment of the changing of power the White House plans to tap James Jeffrey as special envoy to Syria. Jeffrey is a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and a career foreign service officer. Jeffrey will hold the title of “special representative for Syrian engagement” and report directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or the President.

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