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US raises $300 million from allies for Syria stabilisation

By Thomson Reuters Foundation - Aug 19,2018 - Last updated at Aug 19,2018

A general view of the destruction in Aleppo as excavation works are under way, seen from the citadel, on Thursday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — The United States said on Friday it had secured $300 million from coalition partners to help stabilise parts of Syria retaken from Daesh, after President Donald Trump demanded that allies help carry the costs of the war.

The State Department said it would redirect $230 million in frozen funding for Syria to other unspecified foreign policy priorities, while emphasising that the move did not signal a retreat by Washington from the Syrian conflict.

Trump froze the $230 million in March, threatening to withdraw United States forces from Syria, subject to a review to reassess Washington’s role in the brutal seven-year-old conflict.

Whether or not the coalition money will convince him to stay is unclear.

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

While Washington has long insisted that Syrian President Bashar Assad should go, the Trump administration appears to have accepted that Assad could remain until the end of his current seven-year presidential term in 2021.

Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition fighting against Daesh, will remain in his role as the US-coalition prepares to clean up the last remaining militants in an area around the town of Hajin in eastern Syria.

“We still have not launched the final phase to defeat the physical caliphate. That is actually being prepared now and will come at a time of our choosing, but it’s coming,” McGurk, the US special presidential envoy overseeing the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, told reporters.

The US believes that Daesh has lost about 98 per cent of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria

Acting US Assistant Secretary David Satterfield said the United States and other countries would not contribute to Syria’s full reconstruction until there was a “credible and irreversible” political process under way to end the conflict.

“There is not going to be by international agreement reconstruction assistance to Syria unless the UN ... validates that a credible and irreversible political process is under way,” Satterfield told a conference call.

Both the Russian and Syrian governments want international funding to rebuild Syria, he said.

Russia joined the war on Assad’s behalf in 2015, turning the momentum in his favour. Assad also enjoys robust support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbollah.

McGurk said Saudi Arabia had contributed $100 million and United Arab Emirates had pledged $50 million in donations to stabilising programmes. Australia, Denmark, European Union, Taiwan, Kuwait, Germany and France also participated, he said.

“We are remaining in Syria. The focus is on the enduring fight against Daesh,” said McGurk.

In its early stages, the war shattered Syria into a patchwork of areas held by different forces. The fighting has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than half the pre-war population from their homes.

A report by the UN’s Arab countries agency ESCWA has cited experts as saying the volume of destruction of Syria’s physical capital and its sectoral distribution exceeded $388 billion.

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Comments

This is good for Syria but the US wont do the same for Yemen. The US knows Iran and Russia are allies. So it funds the Saudis proxy war in Yemen instead. Problem is, Iranian assistance to Houthis is overestimated.

Great, now it's time for the Syrians to return and rebuild their OWN country. These people have exceeded their welcome, not only here in Jordan, but in the other countries as well. If they have any pride and dignity left they will go back.

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