The United States will supply the Syrian rebels with up to $10 million in direct nonlethal aid in the form of food and medical supplies, the White House announced Thursday.
The delivery of food rations and medical supplies will be the first time the U.S. is providing assistance directly to the opposition, according to a White House aide.
Medical kits and MREs (meals ready to eat) will be provided to the Syrian Opposition Coalition and to the Syrian opposition's Supreme Military Council.
This is in addition to the $60 million in assistance that Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Rome in February.
Overall, the White House says the administration has provided or pledged the following aid to the Syrian opposition:
- Non-lethal assistance: $117 million (includes $60 million that Kerry pledged directly to the Syrian rebels).
- Humanitarian aid (for displaced Syrians and refugees): $385 million.
- Direct food and medical aid: up to $10 million.
A White House official told NBC News that it will take several weeks for the aid to be delivered to the Syrian opposition. The U.S. military, the official said, will not be involved in the food or medical kit distribution inside Syria.
A presidential memo says the supplies can be directed from any relevant agency due to the Foreign Assistance Act. For example, the MREs will most likely come from the Defense Department.
“I therefore direct the drawdown of up to $10 million in nonlethal commodities and services from the inventory and resources of any agency of the United States Government to provide food and medical supplies to the SOC and the SMC for distribution to those in need,” President Barack Obama’s memo states.
“We have provided more than $115 million in nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition thus far and have been steadily increasing that assistance to help the opposition become stronger, more cohesive and more organized,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in a briefing Thursday. “We are on an upward trajectory with our assistance, both humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and direct assistance, nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition.”
NBC News' Jeff Black contributed to this report.