Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters last week in Tel Aviv that the United States has “suspended deliveries of nonlethal assistance” to Syria after al Qaeda linked al-Nusrah fighters raided a warehouse filled with machine guns, ammunition and other military supplies intended for Western-backed rebels.
Kerry made the remarks after a reporter asked him if the U.S. had lost confidence in General Salim Idris, head of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Kerry’s answer included reference to a warehouse raid by Islamic extremists that led to the supply suspension.
“Well, regarding General Idris, we are in touch with General Idris,” Kerry said. “I have not personally talked to him, but we are touch in with him, and he is, I believe, in Turkey at this moment.
“We are talking with both him and others in the SMC staff to inventory the equipment that was in the warehouse that was raided by the Islamic front, al-Nusrah,” Kerry said. “And we are in discussions with our friends and consulting with everybody in the opposition about the next steps in support of the Syrian people.”
Despite continued support for the opposition fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry said because of the raid “We have suspended deliveries of nonlethal assistance into northern Syria simply while we evaluate the situation on the ground.”
The London-based Arab newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, reported on Wednesday that an unnamed official with the SMC said the cache stolen in the raid included 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 1,000 assorted arms—including M79 Osa rocket launchers – rocket-propelled grenades, 14.5mm heavy machine guns and more than 200 tons of ammunition.
At least 100 FSA military vehicles were also taken in the attack, the official said.
“We continue to have confidence in General Idris and confidence in the opposition, and we will continue to support them,” Kerry said.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that “the incident dealt a serious blow to the Syrian opposition, which is struggling to maintain international support as extremists expand their hold across rebel-held territories.”
In December 2012, the State Department designated al-Nusrah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
“The consequences of adding al-Nusrah Front as a new alias for AQI include a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, al-Nusrah Front, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement.