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Exclusive: U.S. sending Free Syrian Army 200,000 halal MREs

The U.S. government is airlifting 200,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to the Free Syrian Army, although they will expire by June, The Cable has confirmed. At a briefing for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 7, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told lawmakers that the U.S. government ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. government is airlifting 200,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to the Free Syrian Army, although they will expire by June, The Cable has confirmed.

The U.S. government is airlifting 200,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to the Free Syrian Army, although they will expire by June, The Cable has confirmed.

At a briefing for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 7, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told lawmakers that the U.S. government would provide the MREs to elements of the Free Syrian Army within the coming weeks. The officials also said that these MREs were set to expire in June of this year and that they had some concerns that the FSA was not in a position to receive and process the distribution of these MREs competently.

"We will closely monitor the expiration dates so that all MREs are delivered with ample time for them to be consumed before they expire, and the FSA will also be trained to use them before they expire," a senior administration official said.

The U.S. government is confident the MREs will be eaten before they go bad.

"Given the extreme needs, the expectation is that each tranche of MREs shipped will be consumed within a month of delivery either by the FSA themselves or the FSA will distribute them to civilians in need," the official told The Cable.

The official declined to comment on why the MREs being sent to the FSA are so close to their expiration date or where they were being sent from. The official did say all the MREs will be halal-compliant.

The food aid marks the largest instance of direct American support to the fighting rebels in Syria since the revolution began on March 15, 2011, exactly two years ago Friday. The State Department has announced a total of $115 million in humanitarian support for the Syrian opposition, $60 million of which Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled in Rome earlier this month.

But State has refused to say how much money is being spent on aid to the FSA other than to say that assistance is coming from Defense Department accounts that are being drawn down.

According to the website MRE Info, the shelf life of an MRE is between 12 and 60 months, depending on the temperature at which it is stored. Individual MRE menu items may also have different shelf lives. For example, MRE applesauce packets stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit are fine after 36 months, but don’t look so appetizing if stored at 80 degrees or more.

You can find some taste reviews and nutritional information on the MREs here.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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