The Obama administration said Thursday that it will provide the Syrian opposition with an additional $60 million in assistance and — in a significant policy shift — will for the first time provide nonlethal aid like food and medical supplies to rebels battling to oust President Bashar Assad.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the new support and the decision to back the rebel fighters on the sidelines of an international conference on Syria in Rome, where European nations were also expected to signal their intention to provide fresh assistance to the opposition, possibly including defensive military hardware.
“No nation, no people should live in fear of their so-called leaders,” Kerry said.
He said the U.S. decision is designed to increase the pressure on Assad to step down and pave the way for a democratic transition. The aid is also intended to help the opposition govern newly liberated areas of Syria and blunt the influence of extremists.