In a somewhat surprising but not entirely unpredictable turn, President Trump has authorized new funding for the White Helmets which had previously been put on hold.
A State Department press release puts the initial funding figure at $6.6 million to continue what it calls “the vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets.” Elsewhere on the State Department’s website the group is referenced as “first responders” in Syria; however, it remains an indisputable fact that the group only operates in al-Qaeda and anti-Assad insurgent held territory.
The statement continues: “The United States Government strongly supports the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 lives since the conflict began including victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks.”
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) June 14, 2018
In early May the Trump State Department froze funding to the controversial aid group which had provided the sole evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons on his own people in an April 7 attack on the city of Douma.
The prior funding freeze dealt a huge blow to the group’s reputation, already long under fire after multiple videos emerged proving the White Helmets operate closely alongside know al-Qaeda terrorist groups, and have even participated in al-Qaeda execution videos typically in a support role of disposing the bodies.
As CBS News reported at the time:
Having not received U.S. funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the U.S. government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group’s people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off.
Much speculation abounded at the time over whether the freeze was a bureaucratic error in paperwork, or whether it was the result of the White House adopting a different view of the scandal-laden group.