Hundreds of millions in U.S. federal funds initially earmarked to help rebuild Syria, ravaged by the ongoing civil war and the U.S.-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State, have been canceled.
State Department officials plan to shift the roughly $200 million set aside for Syrian reconstruction towards other department priorities, the Associated Press reported Friday. The bulk of the funds to aid in Syria’s recovery will be derived from a $300 million allocation from partner nations in the U.S.-led coalition, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, to flush the terror group known as ISIS from the Middle Eastern nation.
“Many coalition partners have made pledges and contributions in recent months and the United States appreciates all partners who have stepped up to support this critical effort,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Friday.
The move to funnel the initial $200 million toward Syrian reconstruction had been spearheaded by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February, but had been held in bureaucratic limbo since his firing in March, the AP reports. Since then, only a small portion of those funds have been distributed to aid groups and other organizations working in Syria to rebuild the country.
The move falls in line with Mr. Trump’s ongoing rhetoric over his desire to end the American mission in Syria, despite calls from senior national security leaders that Washington needed to remain engaged in Syria, to prevent a resurgent ISIS from taking back control in the country.
Mr. Trump has made repeated public overtures that it was now time for the U.S.-led mission in Syria to come to an end. In April, Mr. Trump suggested “it’s time to come back home” from Syria. “We’ve had a tremendous military success against ISIS. I want to get out, I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” he said during a White House press conference that month.
News of the cancellation in funds for Syria comes the same day as the Trump White House was forced to cancel a proposed military parade in Washington, due to skyrocketing costs for the spectacle. Unofficial estimates put the parade’s price tag at $92 million, which is nearly $80 million above what administration officials initially calculated. CNBC first reported the figures Thursday.
Mr. Trump took to social media Friday, blaming D.C. officials for trying to bilk taxpayers with an overinflated statement for the parade. Defense Secretary James Mattis dismissed the parade figures reported, saying the Pentagon has not calculated any figures for the parade’s proposed cost.
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