Trump freezes $200M in Syria recovery funds: report
President Trump ordered the State Department to freeze $200 million in funds to help recovery efforts in Syria, a sign of the president’s growing skepticism over the United States’s involvement in the war-torn country.
Trump froze the funds after reading a news report that the U.S. had agreed to provide an additional $200 million to bolster recovery and stabilization efforts in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the additional funding in Kuwait in February during a ministerial meeting of the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Trump has since fired Tillerson as head of the State Department.
Trump has appeared increasingly eager for an early U.S. exit from Syria. During a speech in Ohio on Thursday, he said the U.S. would be “coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” and called on other countries to “take care of it now.”
“Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” he said. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”
A State Department spokesperson said the agency “continues to work with the international community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria.”
The spokesperson acknowledged that funding is constantly reevaluated but did not confirm the Syrian stabilization funding was frozen.
“In line with the president’s request to review all international assistance, we continually reevaluate appropriate assistance levels and how best they might be utilized, which we do on an ongoing basis,” the spokesperson told The Hill.
The decision to freeze the spending would come as the fight against ISIS has largely flatlined, the Journal reported. While the U.S.-led coalition has taken back most of the territory once controlled by the militant group, efforts to retake the last pockets of land in Syria have stalled.
An early U.S. exit from Syria would raise concerns of a resurgence by ISIS militants in the region. It would also heighten the fears of Israel and Saudi Arabia of growing Iranian and Russian influence in Syria.
— Updated 8:32 a.m.