Despite promises of assistance for the Syrian rebels, half of the non-lethal aid promised to them remains on U.S. shelves. And now, Washington is pointing fingers over who’s to blame.
One U.S. official familiar with the aid delivery process says the bottleneck is at the State Department. Foggy Bottom has yet to send out congressional notifications on certain traunches of aid shipments involving vehicles, medical supplies, communications equipment and night vision goggles, according to the source.
"It’s just shocking that we are so slow on even non-lethal support to people who have now been well vetted," the source told The Cable. "We can’t even take the most basic of bureaucratic steps forward with non-lethal aid. How on earth can we even manage lethal aid?"
This week, a spokesman at State blamed delays in aid shipments on the congressional notification process, the need to vet the recipients of aid and the time it takes to ship items overseas.
The spokesman told FP’s Gordon Lubold that $127 million of aid is making its way to Syria now and an additional $123 million is going through the congressional notification process. The other government source speaking with The Cable says Congress has been pinging the State Department for notifications for the last two weeks on a multi-million dollar traunch of non-lethal aid but those notifications have yet to materialize.
By law, the State Department is required to send notifications to Congress with details on the cost and quantity of the aid before shipping it out. The source says Congress is likely to green light the notifications immediately, but that first bureaucratic step of sending out the notification is required to get the wheels in motion.
Another State Department official speaking with The Cable says these criticisms of Foggy Bottom are misplaced. "We work closely with Congress to notify them, that is happening right now and have made every effort to expedite move aid to the ground."
Meanwhile, rebels are in an increasingly vulnerable situation as regime-backed Hezbollah fighters advance on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo following a devastating victory over anti-government forces in Qusair. They could use some help, now.