Meanwhile, as the death toll mounts and the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad shows no sign of giving up, anger about the perceived failure of the United States to help mounts steadily among Syrians who support the rebellion.
“America has done nothing for us. Nothing at all,” said Mohammed Fouad Waisi, 50, spitting out the words for emphasis in his small Aleppo grocery store, which adjoins a bakery where he buys bread every day. The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States. But Waisi credited Jabhat al-Nusra — a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda — with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.
“If America considers itself a friend of Syria, it should start to do something,” he said.
The unpublicized aid effort, which The Washington Post was invited to witness on the condition that it not identify the agency involved, the names or nationalities of its staff, or the precise locations in which the workers operate, illustrates the dilemma confronting the Obama administration as it cautiously explores ways of stepping up support for the Syrian opposition.
The United States is already providing a significant component of the humanitarian aid reaching Syria. It has contributed an overall total of $385 million, according to USAID officials. Overall, international donors have matched only a third of the funds promised, and the amount remains woefully insufficient to meet the spiraling needs of a war-ravaged country whose people are killed, injured and forced to flee their homes on a daily basis, U.N. officials say.
The U.N. mission, based in Damascus, faces difficulty accessing rebel-held areas of the country because of government-imposed restrictions and the dangers of crossing the front lines. To circumvent the shortfall, the United States has earmarked $90 million of its contribution for nongovernmental organizations to operate in rebel areas, making it the largest Western donor of aid to the parts of Syria that have slipped beyond government control.
Syrians “say they’re not getting any help, and it frustrates us because they are,” said a U.S. official involved in the aid effort who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.