U.S. delivers first aid shipment to Free Syrian Army (FP, 1 May 2013)

Early Tuesday morning, the United States delivered its first direct shipment of food and medical supplies to the rebel Free Syrian Army, with some help from its representatives in Washington.

At about 5 a.m. Tuesday morning at an undisclosed location across Syria’s northern border, a U.S. C-17 transport aircraft based out of Dover Air Force Base offloaded the first of what will be several shipments totaling $8 million in halal « Meals Ready to Eat » and combat medical packs called Warrior Aid and Litter Kits. Those supplies are marked with a note from the Syrian Support Group, the U.S. government’s implementing partner, which coordinated the logistics for the transfer to the FSA.

Gen. Salim Idris, the leader of the FSA’s Supreme Military Command, who met with Secretary of State John Kerry last month, was on hand to oversee the delivery of the new aid. He is also in charge of overseeing its delivery to warehousing facilities in Aleppo province that are under FSA control.

« The Syrian Support Group was the U.S. government’s key partner in organizing and delivering the supplies directly into Syria. With the protection and oversight of General Idris and Col. Abdel Jabar al-Akaidi, the supplies will be distributed to units under the command of the Supreme Military Council operating throughout each of Syria’s 14 provinces, » the SSG said in a statement provided to The Cable.

The SSG is the only U.S.-based organization licensed to provide support directly to the Free Syrian Army. The SSG taped a video of Idris thanking the United States and the SSG for the supplies as well as another video of the trucks heading into Syria.

Later on Tuesday, Idris sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking the president to help train and equip the FSA in the wake of the use of chemical weapons inside Syria, which Idris said was perpetrated by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He also said that Obama needs to be more forceful in responding to the regime’s use of chemical weapons lest Assad feel emboldened to use them again.

« The Regime’s history of desensitizing the international community to its gradual use of internationally banned weapons as led me to the alarming conclusion that these incidents are but a prelude to larger and more systematic deployment of chemical weapons as part of Assad’s military strategy, » Idris wrote. « We appreciate, as you noted today at your press conference, the critical importance that facts will play in your analysis. However, I respectfully submit to you that Assad is not taking your carefully phrased condemnations as warnings, but as loopholes, which justify his continued use of chemical weapons on a small, strategic scale. »

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