Center for Strategic Communication

The US State Department announced today that it will provide nonlethal aid to two Syrian rebel groups, the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army. Both of these groups support and actively fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, which is al Qaeda’s affiliate in the war-torn country.

The State Department announced that it would provide $60 million in direct aid to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, an alliance of Syrian groups that has come out in support of the Al Nusrah Front after the US designated it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and al Qaeda in Iraq’s affiliate in Syria in December 2012.

“This money will be used particularly to enable the SOC to help local councils and communities in liberated areas of Syria expand the delivery of basic goods and essential services, and to fulfill administrative functions, including security, sanitation, and educational services,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters in a briefing today.

Additionally, the State Department said that “the United States will look for opportunities to work with the … Supreme Military Council … to provide concrete, nonlethal support to the Free Syrian Army.”

“This will include things like military rations to feed hungry fighters and medical supplies to tend the sick and the wounded,” the official continued.

But as documented by The Long War Journal numerous times, the ostensibly secular Free Syrian Army often fights alongside or under the command of the Al Nusrah Front. The two groups have overrun Syrian military bases and they have even conducted a suicide attack in concert.

The push to back the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army came after newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry met with the SOC’s president, Ahmed Moaz al Khatib, in Italy.

Al Khatib is a Syrian opposition leader, who, just one day after the US added the Al Nusrah Front to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, urged the US to drop the designation, citing “ideological and political differences.”

“The decision to blacklist one of the groups fighting the regime as a terrorist organization must be re-examined,” al Khatib said in December 2012.

“We can have ideological and political differences with certain parties, but the revolutionaries all share the same goal: to overthrow the criminal regime” of President Bashar al-Assad, al Khatib continued.