APNewsBreak: AP Sources: US ends Syria stabilization funding

Trump Administration Ends $200 Million in Funding for Syria Stabilization Programs

Trump Administration Ends $200 Million in Funding for Syria Stabilization Programs

Saudi Arabia on Friday announced a $100 million contribution to a US-backed campaign to "stabilise" northeastern Syria, once a bastion of the radical Daesh group.

The department said it has secured approximately $300 million in contributions and pledges from allies since April.

The Saudi contribution comes as President Donald Trump's administration is looking to bypass the US Congress to reduce foreign aid spending, including funds for programs in Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.

The $200 million was initially pledged by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February, and had been on hold and under review since he was ousted from the administration in March.

The State Department named veteran U.S. diplomat and former ambassador to Iraq, Jim Jeffrey, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's adviser for Syria, a role that will include overseeing the U.S. role in talks aimed at a political transition in Syria.

US officials told The Associated Press that the White House is notifying lawmakers that $200 million planned for efforts to stabilize the country and provide relief for civilians amid the Syrian Civil War would be shifted elsewhere. They said the new funding would go toward priorities the USA had identified, and they pushed back against suggestions that the U.S. decision represents a retreat from leadership or a decline in Washington's commitment to the conflict. But the move is a sign that the Trump administration is moving to reduce the US footprint in the country.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, denounced what he said amounted to Trump "sprinting down the path of abdicating American leadership on the global stage".

People in northern Syria, the Foreign Ministry stresses in a statement, deserve much more in view of the hard conditions in which they live, and Saudi Arabia thus demonstrates its ‘clear obedience' to the US Administration.

The decision was made based on the additional pledges and "the already significant military and financial contributions made by the United States to date", Nauert said.

Yet Friday's funding cut is the latest Trump administration financial retreat from Syria.

The State Department "continues to work with the worldwide community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria", the spokesperson said in March.

In June, the administration freed up a small portion - $6.6 million - of the $200 million that Tillerson had pledged in order to continue funding for the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense organization, and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, a United Nations agency that is investigating war crimes committed during the conflict.

Last month, the US helped to organize the evacuation through Israel of White Helmet workers from Syria's south, where Assad's Russian-backed forces launched a new offensive despite a de-escalation agreement between Washington and Moscow.