The USAID Inspector General (OIG) has found that food aid intended for starving civilians in northern Syria was instead diverted by a USAID contractor -- Catholic Relief Services -- to a group identified by the U.S. government as a front for Syrian al-Qaeda.
That food aid was part of a now-suspended $30 million USAID contract for Syria awarded to Catholic Relief Services.
The OIG mentioned the revelation in its most recent quarterly report to Congress on anti-ISIS operations covering April to June 2018. This was first reported today by Ben Parker of IRIN News.
According to the OIG, ongoing conflict around Idlib in northern Syria has created a situation enabling aid to be diverted to militants:
[The] USAID/OIG investigation found that employees of a U.S.-based NGO
knowingly diverted USAID-funded food kits to the militant organization Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which has been designated by the DoS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The NGO’s employees allowed HTS fighters to be included among program beneficiaries in Idlib province and submitted falsified beneficiary lists to USAID to conceal the fighters’ participation in the food assistance program.
IRIN News has identified the USAID contractor as Catholic Relief Services. The group has $46.5 million in U.S. government contracts in FY2018. The USAID website identifies Catholic Relief Services as its eighth largest partner in Syria.
The State Department, the sponsor of USAID, designated HTS a terror organization in May 2018:
In January 2017, al-Nusrah Front launched the creation of HTS as a vehicle to advance its position in the Syrian uprising and to further its own goals as an al-Qa’ida affiliate. Since January 2017, the group has continued to operate through HTS in pursuit of these objectives.
The OIG Investigations Dashboard for the most recent period adds further information about the breach, noting that the staff involved have been fired and that the food aid program was suspended in February 2018:
27 Individuals Fired After OIG Investigation Uncovered Diversion of USAID Commodities to a Designated Terrorist Organization
From March to May 2018, a USAID-funded NGO terminated the employment of 27 individuals after an ongoing OIG investigation found that the NGO’s employees in Syria participated in a scheme in which USAID-funded food kits were diverted to a designated terrorist organization called Hay’at Tahrir AlSham (HTS) that operates in northern Syria. HTS is an offshoot of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra.
The employees allowed HTS fighters to be included among program beneficiaries and submitted falsified beneficiary lists to USAID to conceal the fighters’ participation in the food assistance program. USAID previously suspended the $44.6 million dollar program in February 2018 as a result of the investigation’s findings.
This is not the first time USAID supplies have fallen into the hands of terrorists in Syria.
In 2013, a picture circulated of a Chechen ISIS commander standing inside a USAID tent. A few weeks later, al-Qaeda raided a storehouse of U.S.-provided supplies, including small arms and MREs, intended for so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels.
In recent years I've reported here at PJ Media on a long string of failures related to the Obama, and now Trump, administrations' failed Syria policies:
July 7, 2014:
U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State
Sept. 3, 2014: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra
Sept. 9, 2014: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda
Sept. 10, 2014: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting
Sept. 13, 2014: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS
Sept. 24, 2014: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’
Nov. 2, 2014: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda
Nov. 3, 2014: How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff
Nov. 24, 2014: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS
Dec. 2, 2014: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North
Dec. 14, 2014: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria
Dec. 28, 2014: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective al-Qaeda Control
March 3, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands
March 24, 2015: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria
April 16, 2015: U.S. Analyst Admits ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working with Al-Qaeda All Along
May 8, 2015: CIA-Backed, "Vetted Moderate" Rebels Now Working Openly With Al-Qaeda
June 27, 2015: ISIS Using U.S. TOW Antitank Missiles In Latest Syrian Offensive
July 9, 2015: Report: 'Vetted Moderate' Free Syrian Army Fighting Alongside Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Against Assad Regime
July 23, 2015: U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video
July 27, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Obama's 50-Man 'Vetted Moderate' Syrian Rebel Army Vanishes After Training in Turkey
July 29, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels Part 2: Al-Qaeda Arrests 18 U.S.-Trained Rebels On Their First Day in Syria
July 30, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Despite Pentagon Denial, Reports Confirm That U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebels Were Kidnapped By Al-Qaeda Almost Immediately
July 31, 2015: Report: Al-Qaeda Kills Five Members of Obama's 54-Man Syrian Rebel Army
July 31, 2015: Chechen Terrorists In Syria Have Obtained U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles
Sept. 22, 2015: Report: U.S.-Trained, 'Vetted Moderate' Syrian Rebel Leader Defects to Al-Qaeda, Turns Weapons Over to Terror Group
Oct. 27, 2015: New Video Shows Al-Qaeda Using Weapons U.S. Gave to 'Vetted Moderates'
Nov. 24, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Destroy Russian Helicopter with CIA-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missile
July 20, 2016: CIA-Vetted, "Moderate" Syrian Rebels Behead Child Soldier
Sept. 3, 2016: British Journo: Syrian Kidnapper Who Shot Me Twice is Now a CIA-vetted 'Moderate'
Sept. 6, 2016: New ISIS Commander Was Trained by State Department as Recently as 2014
Sept. 16, 2016: SHOCK VIDEO: U.S.-Backed, "Moderate" Free Syrian Army Threatens to Kill U.S. Special Forces
Sept. 29, 2016: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Allies With Group that State Dept Designated LAST WEEK
Oct. 20, 2016: U.S. "Vetted Moderate" Syrian Rebels Defect to Al-Qaeda Affiliate
Nov. 22, 2016: Video Shows Syrian "Rebel" Group That Beheaded Child Still Using CIA-Provided TOW Missiles
Nov. 27, 2016: SHOCKING ADMISSION: 'Secular' Syrian Rebels Don't Actually Believe in Secular Democracy
Jan. 21, 2017: Before Leaving White House Obama Bombs CIA-Vetted Rebels Embedded with Al-Qaeda
Jan. 28, 2017: 'Vetted Moderate' Syrian Rebel Group Officially Partners with Al-Qaeda
Feb. 23, 2017: Syrian 'Moderate' Rebels Flocking to Al-Qaeda After CIA Halts Weapons Pipeline