UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As the United States and its allies pounded Islamist militants in Syria with airstrikes, Washington and members of the so-called Friends of Syria group on Wednesday pledged more than $90 million in new funds for non-lethal and humanitarian assistance.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced about $40 million in new money for the moderate armed opposition and the civilian opposition at a U.N. meeting hosted by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Hadi al-Bahra, head of the Syrian National Coalition.
“This includes more than $15 million for communications equipment, vehicles, food (and) other essential items for the armed opposition, as well as more than $25 million to support the civilian opposition as it works to build the capacity of governing,” Kerry said.
Japan, aiming to provide humanitarian support to Iraq, Syria and the peripheral countries, pledged an additional $25.5 million in financial aid.
Meanwhile, Hammond said that Britain would provide 16 million pounds ($26 million) to help consolidate moderate rebels consolidate their hold on territory they control with good government and strong public services.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to authorize $500 million to train and arm the moderate Syrian rebels.
The Free Syrian Army has been unable to match the military strength of Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and is blamed for massacres and beheadings. The United States and Arab allies have been bombing IS positions for days in an attempt to weaken the group.
The decision to provide additional aid to the Syrian National Coalition and moderate rebels comes amid concerns expressed by some Western diplomats that the bombing campaign against IS in Syria will strengthen the hand of President Bashar al-Assad, who they say contributed to the growth of IS by ignoring it for years.
The U.S. military began bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq last month.
Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, Editing by Louis Charbonneau and Ken Wills