The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to former U.S. ambassador Robert Ford, Ben Norton reports.
By Ben Norton
The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country.
This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011.
This striking figure provides a further glimpse of the exorbitant sums of money the U.S. spent trying to topple the government in Damascus. It also bluntly contradicts claims by Syrian opposition supporters that the former administration of President Barack Obama “did nothing” in Syria, or that it supposedly did not seek regime change fervently enough.
Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford disclosed this information in written testimony prepared for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on February 6.
“The cost of US military operations in Syria between FY 2014 and the end of FY 2017 was between $3 and $4 billion,” Ford said. “In addition to the cost of those military operations, the FY 2017 budget request included $430 [million] to build local security forces and the FY 2018 request was for $500 million.”
The former ambassador did not distinguish what proportion of this spending went specifically to fighting ISIS. Although he made clear that some of it was directed at the Syrian opposition.
Ford also reported that the U.S. spent $7.7 billion in humanitarian aid efforts in Syria in those same four years. This figure cannot be excluded from the overall cost of the U.S. regime change mission, however, because U.S. spending on humanitarian aid in Syria has often been explicitly politicized.
The U.S. State Department, USAID, and other government agencies have refused to provide humanitarian aid to government-held areas in Syria and have instead expressly used the funding to bankroll the political, civil, and health infrastructure of rebel-held territory, including areas that are governed by Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. The Guardian exposed how similar aid initiatives by the British government financed the activities of al-Nusra and other extremist Salafi-jihadist militias.
Ford acknowledged in his testimony that U.S. humanitarian aid to Syria was heavily politicized, explaining:
“The U.S. also has deployed a small civilian team into Syria charged with initial reconstruction and building new local governance or improving on existing local governance. If it sounds like nation-building, it is but on a smaller scale. USAID and other civilian agencies have provided $875 million in non-lethal and stabilization aid to opposition-controlled areas in Syria since FY 2012. Last year alone the US provided about $200 million.”
This politicized humanitarian funding has been part of a concerted effort to undermine the Syrian government’s control over Syrian territory by creating independent political administrations, civil society organizations, health institutions, and infrastructure that are outside of its control, effectively establishing de facto autonomous governments that survive on U.S. funding.
In fact, Ford went so far in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing as to condemn United Nations humanitarian aid programs,claiming they are “basically subsidizing Assad” by supporting civilians in government-held territory (which comprises the vast majority of the country).
“If you add all these numbers up, US military and civilian costs in Syria over the past four years are at least $12 billion,” Ford said in his written congressional testimony. “That’s a lot of money. And it’s not clear when those outlays will stop.”