by Will Racke
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 been battling U.S.-backed Kurdish militia groups.
“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.”
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