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Memo: State to expand assistance to opposition groups in Aleppo

As the battle for Aleppo intensifies, the U.S. State Department is trying to direct more non-lethal aid to opposition groups inside the strategic Syrian city, according to a memorandum by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton obtained by The Cable.

At least 40 residents of Aleppo were killed when a series of bombs exploded in a government-controlled area Wednesday. The government blamed rebel groups, and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the deaths were caused by regime security forces during a gun battle that preceded the explosions.

Clinton announced Sept. 28 that the State Department would give an additional $45 million to the effort to bring non-lethal assistance to those Syrian opposition members who can get to Istanbul, Turkey, to get it.  In a memorandum to relevant congressional committees, she explained that the goal was to expand the assistance to reach new opposition groups in Aleppo and other areas of Syria that have not yet gotten U.S. assistance.

“Unified, inclusive, and effective civilian leadership is the key to a successful transition in Syria,” Clinton wrote. “Thus far, assistance to the civilian-led unarmed opposition has helped develop the organization and effectiveness of local groups, including their ability to communicate within and beyond Syria. Opposition groups in heavily contested areas remain in need of emergency non-lethal assistance, including essential supplies, communications equipment, and funding for administrative functions.”

“Expanded non-lethal support will build on existing networks to increase support to groups with which we have established relationships and to help assistance reach new opposition groups in strategic parts of Syria like Aleppo province and the contested northeast. Specifically, our additional assistance will enable these groups to more effectively communicate and disseminate information, provide basic services to local Syrians, and to be in a position to effectively participate in a political transition,” the memo states.

State plans to use the money to increase the amount of training and equipment provided to opposition members at the Office of Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS) in Istanbul and the department is thinking about opening more branches of the OSOS in other locations, according to the memo.

The new assistance will include communications gear, radio broadcast equipment, the training required to use it, and workshops on issues such as civil administration, leadership, human rights, and mitigating sectarian strife, with a focus on the revolutionary councils, Clinton wrote.

“While U.S. assistance alone is not a silver bullet, it remains a crucial component of our multidimensional campaign to support a peaceful political transition in Syria, an end to the Assad regime, and the emergence of a stable, responsible government,” she wrote. “Our assistance has helped the opposition to organize and communicate, but additional support to emerging civilian leadership is needed to forestall the chaos that could emerge in a power vacuum and to help prevent conditions that might promote the interests of extremist elements, threatening our vital national security interests.”

According to the memo, State wants to take $15 million away from the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) and use that money to aid the Syrian opposition.



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