Administration Redirecting $200M Of Syria Stabilization Funds
The Trump administration has announced that it will be redirecting $200 million in funds slated for Syria stabilization efforts. That money would have had to have been returned to the Treasury Department at the end of this budget year on Sept. 30 if it had remained unspent. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the decision will allow the administration to free up taxpayer dollars to use on other key foreign policy priorities. Those priorities have not been defined.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged the $200 million in February, about a month before he was ousted from the administration. The money has been on hold and under review since then, except for a small portion released in June. That money, totaling $6.6 million, was used to continue funding for the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense organization, and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, a UN agency tasked with investigating war crimes committed during the Syrian civil war.
The administration said that it was able to redirect the funds because other nations have agreed to increase their contributions. According to administration officials, $300 million has been pledged to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Saudi Arabia reportedly contributed $100 million, while the United Arab Emirates contributed $50 million. Other contributors include Australia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, and Kuwait.
Syria has been devastated by more than seven years of war. The conflict started in 2011 after Syrian President Bashar Assad began to violently suppress pro-democracy protests. The civil war provided an opportunity for ISIS to swoop in and take over a large portion of the country in the east. A report released by the Defense Department estimates that ISIS still commands up to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.
The stabilization projects include things like removing land mines, restoring running water, and providing electricity to homes and businesses. The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS says that the $300 million pledge means that all of the projects will remain up and running. The long-term reconstruction of the country will be overseen by the World Bank and other international financial institutions.