The war goes on

In 2015, Artur’s* family was forced to leave their home in Aleppo, Syria when their home was destroyed. Artur, who requires expensive medications and is unemployed, lives with his elderly parents, wife and two children. The family has received various forms of assistance from Mennonite Central Committee through a partner organization.

The war in Syria has shifted into a new phase, focused in Idlib province. As the war winds down in other parts of the country, some have begun to focus on the need for reconstruction.

Long-term rebuilding will be necessary for Syria to recover. But for many Syrians, such as Artur and his family, emergency humanitarian assistance remains vitally necessary. This year alone, 1.3 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, in addition to the millions of Syrians displaced earlier in the war.

While the needs remain, funding is hard to come by. The United Nations says it has less than half of the $3.36 billion it needs to respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, including urgent winterization programs. To put that number in perspective, the U.S. plans to spend five times that amount–$15 billion–fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq in this fiscal year alone.

Despite this huge investment, the goals of U.S. military involvement in Syria are unclear. What started out in 2013 as U.S. support for Syrian opposition groups shifted in 2014 to focus primarily on ISIS. Now that ISIS’ reach is much smaller, the stated goal is shifting again.

National Security Advisor John Bolton said recently that U.S. troops will stay in Syria until Iranian troops leave the country. The ever-changing goals make it unclear as to when the U.S. will withdraw militarily.

The involvement of foreign militaries, including the U.S., is perpetuating the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It is long past time for the U.S. to develop a clear timeline for the withdrawal of troops, to support struggling diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and to support humanitarian assistance and reconstruction throughout the country.

The people of Syria, including Artur and his family, deserve no less.

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*Name changed for security reasons.


Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach is director of the MCC U.S. Washington Office. Story originally published October 18, 2018. Reprinted with permission from Thirdway Cafe

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