Trump administration not ready to pay for post-ISIS stabilization in Raqqa: official

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SDF fighters entering liberated areas north of Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said that in the post-ISIS Raqqa “unanimously nobody wants the Syrian regime to come back, regime symbols, regime military forces.” However, he emphasized that the U.S. will not provide services or pay the salaries in the future.

“In terms of administrative services, teachers, hospitals, who pays those salaries, that is something where Syrians are going to have to work that out. We are not in the business of, as I said, nation-building operations. But as you, kind of, lift the lid over Syria, you see a lot of this happening in areas even where the opposition controls,” he in a briefing on Friday.

“Teacher salaries, basic worker salaries oftentimes paid by the government because it’s a very centralized state. So these are things that have to be worked out, but what they are unanimous about is no return of the regime,” McGurk added.

Furthermore, he said the international community is not coming to the aid for rebuilding Syria without a political solution for Syria.

“As I mentioned, in terms of working with the Syrian regime, this just reflects reality. I mean, the reconstruction costs of Syria are so high in the multiple, multiple billions of dollars,” he said.

“And unlike Iraq, where there’s a legitimate government elected by his people and recognized internationally with full global support, the U.N. is on the ground, you have a huge outpouring of international support to help  these communities recover, the reality in Syria is that until there’s a credible political horizon, the international community is not going to come to the aid, particularly the areas under the control of the regime and these areas have been truly destroyed based upon many of the barbaric tactics that they’ve used,” the coalition official said.

“So that’s just the reality. So until we find a credible political horizon, you are not going to see that international support pour in and the E.U. held a very important conference that reinforce that principle about a month ago.  So there’s a lot of work to do here and we’ll be doing it in parallel, of course, with the military,” he said.

McGurk added that the Assad government will have to pay the bills for services, and that the US is only prepared to do stabilization after ISIS.

“We were prepared to do stabilization, hundreds of projects identified to make sure the lights get on, everything else. Give you a perfect example; the Tabqa Dam,” he said.

“Tabqa Dam is one of the most strategic sites in Syria. It provides 20 percent of all electricity in Syria. It was controlled by ISIS for years.  It was seized and now controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces. We are working locally to de-mine the dam. As we speak, that is happening, local forces — local workers that we trained to help do the de-mining and then getting the workers back to the dam to run the dam.  There’s no regime presence there whatsoever,” McGurk said.

“But in terms of these overall relationships within Syria, it is more complex than most people realize when you kind of lift the hood and look what’s going on. So obviously, that will be worked out. But this battle for Raqqa has some time to go, and in parallel, we’re working on the civilian and diplomatic aspects of it,” he concluded.

Washington-based analyst Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News that the Trump administration does not want the U.S. to pay for the entire cost of post-ISIS stabilization.

“The Trump team wants to have a role, but in coordination with regional partners. Fundamentally, the Trump administration believes that Middle Eastern partners should be willing to invest in local communities after ISIS,” Heras said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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