US using Syrian rebel supply lines as it prepares to send arms

By on July 26, 2013

The United States has quietly been testing the Syrian opposition’s ability to deliver food rations, medical kits and money to rebel-held areas as Washington prepares to send arms to the rebel fighters.

US officials meet weekly in Turkey with Syrian opposition leaders to work out how best to keep supply lines open to rebel fighters and war-ravaged towns and districts.

One of the Syrian opposition’s best-known female leaders, Suhair al-Atassi, attends the meetings as coordinator of the “non-lethal” aid that includes equipment for rebel fighters and local councils, as opposed to humanitarian aid for the displaced.

Supplies are handed to officers of the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) at clandestine locations that cannot be divulged for security reasons.

“I sign the paperwork, and shake the hands of the FSA official,” said a US State Department official involved in the effort. “I wish them well and walk away.” The rebels take aid for their own units and also distribute some of it to schools, clinics and local councils.

The United States has committed $250 million in non-lethal aid to Syria in addition to the $815 million in humanitarian assistance in support of the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Recently, Washington began scaling up its assistance to bigger items like trucks, radios, large generators and sophisticated medical equipment.

Some of it is not only aimed at helping fighters but also at supporting civilian authorities in towns that have rejected Assad’s rule.

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