On September 10th, the government of the Netherlands reported the complete stop of assistance to opposition groups and other organizations in Syria. The reason was the inefficiency of the program.
The decision was announced in a letter to the lower house of the parliament. “The opportunity to quickly change the situation [in Syria] is extremely small,” the letter by Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag, published on the government’s website, says.
The ministers said that the program “did not bring the expected results” and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, in their opinion, “will soon win.”
As reported by Sputnik the Netherlands has reportedly allocated over $80 million to the Syrian opposition groups, including to the Free Syrian Police and White Helmets “rescue group.”
RT reported that over the years, the Netherlands allocated $29 million to the “non-lethal assistance” (NLA) program, $14.5 million were donated to the White Helmets and $17.1 million went to the Access to Justice and Community Service (AJACS) program. The AJACS was supposedly designed to support “community police” work in Syria, specifically the Free Syrian Police (FSP) group.
The support for militants is set to end immediately, yet the White Helmets will be funded until December, according to the document. The Netherlands will, however, continue to support Syrian people ‘which will be extremely necessary’ in the coming period, ministers said.
This decision comes amid a journalist investigation by two Dutch newspapers – Nieuwsuur and Trouw. According to their report, 22 armed militant groups were subjects to receive supplies through the NLA program. The “non-lethal” goods supplied by the Dutch government included satellite phones, uniforms, assorted equipment and even Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks, widely used by various militant groups in Syria.
Furthermore, their investigation revealed that a group which was receiving funding – Jabhat al-Shamiya, was labeled terrorist by the Netherlands Ministry of Justice. Five other militant groups that the journalists managed to identify have been also involved in human rights violations and cooperated with terrorist groups, the investigative report states. The RT reported that more information about the militants will be released by the two newspapers in the following days.
RT also reported that Dutch support of militants in Syria might be even bigger. The FSP has been operating exclusively in Syria’s province of Idlib, largely controlled by the local Al-Qaeda branch, Al-Nusra Front (now rebranded as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham).
The White Helmets have likewise been repeatedly accused of closely cooperating with jihadist groups and effectively serving as their media branch. The group has advertised itself as a volunteer force and Syria’s “civil defense.” Both Damascus and Moscow accused militants and the White Helmets non-governmental organization of staging several provocations involving chemical weapons to influence public opinion and justify foreign intervention in Syria.