The US has reportedly cut its $230 million funding for the so-called Syria stabilization projects, citing increased contributions from the Saudi regime and other coalition allies, but vowed to remain active in its anti-Damascus bid in the terror-ravaged country.
The US State Department said it had notified Congress on Friday that it would not spend the fund set aside for Syria programs by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February and would instead shift that money to other areas, AP reported, noting that the fund had been on hold and under review since Tillerson was fired in March by President Donald Trump.
According to the report, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert emphasized that the funding cut -- authorized by current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- would be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by the US-led coalition partners, including $100 million contributed by Saudi Arabia – widely suspected as the leading financier of Daesh (ISIL) terrorists worldwide.
"As a result of key partner contributions by coalition members, Secretary Pompeo has authorized the Department of State to redirect approximately $230 million in stabilization funds for Syria which have been under review," Nauert said in a statement.
The funds will be redirected "to support other key foreign policy priorities," added Nauert, who along with other US officials rejected suggestions that the removal of the funds reflected the administration’s diminishing interest in Syria.
Nauert, along with acting assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, David Satterfield, and the special envoy for the US-led coalition, Brett McGurk, told reporters on a conference call that the US would remain engaged in Syria until achieving its purported aim of defeating the ISIL terrorist.
She further insisted that "this decision does not represent any lessening of US commitment to our strategic goals in Syria."
However, the move was still viewed by Democratic lawmakers as a sign the administration is heeding Trumpís demand to end American involvement in Syria and reduce its commitment there.
Nauert also stated that in a bid to reassure coalition partners and other opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Pompeo appointed veteran diplomatic troubleshooter, James Jeffrey, to be a special envoy for Syria.
Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey, Iraq and Albania who also served as a deputy national security adviser to former president George W. Bush, will hold the title of "special representative for Syrian engagement."
Yet the funding cut is regarded as the latest US financial retreat from Syria. In May, the State Department announced that it had ended all funding for stabilization programs in Syriaís northwest.
The development comes as the US helped to organize the evacuation through Israel of ISIL-linked White Helmet workers last month from Syriaís south, where Syrian forces launched a new offensive against the remnants of the terror group.
Nauert further stated that the Fridayís decision would not affect "life-saving, needs-based humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Syrians" or US support for the White Helmets or UN-sponsored aid workers.