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US will send nonlethal aid directly to Syrian rebels (+video)

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Since the conflict erupted two years ago, the United States has provided $365 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians. American officials are increasingly worried that extremist members of the resistance against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, notably the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, which the United States has asserted is affiliated with Al Qaeda, will take control of portions of Syria and cement its authority by providing public services, much as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon….

To blunt the power of extremist groups, the United States wants to help the Syrian Opposition Council, the coalition of Syrian resistance leaders it backs and helped organize, deliver basic services in areas that have been wrested from the control of the Assad government.

A US State Department official said that Washington wanted to help the opposition maintain "the institutions of the state" in areas under their control, reports Al Jazeera.

"We're talking about basic services, water, electricity – but also [to] build up new institutions in terms of governance, rule of law, police," State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.

Another potential reason behind the US policy shift in Syria is to send a message to Mr. Assad that rebels have the support and capability to ultimately succeed, providing an impetuous for negotiating a political transition, reports the Times.

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