Damascus: The United States and Britain are offering an underground network of Syrian opposition activists training and supplies of vital equipment in a bid to forge an effective alternative to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has emerged.
Recipients of the aid are provided satellite communications and computers so that they can act as a local ‘hub’ linking local activists and the outside world.
According to The Telegraph, the training takes place in Istanbul districts, and dozens of dissidents have been ferried out of Syria to be vetted for foreign backing.
The report said that the schemes are overseen by the US State Department's Office of Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS) and Foreign Office officials.
America has set aside USD 25 million for political opponents of Assad, while Britain has granted GBP five million to the cause of overthrowing the regime, the paper said.
A British consultant overseeing the programme said that the UK and the US are moving cautiously to improve the capabilities of the opposition.
“We are not 'king-making' in Syria. The UK and the US are moving cautiously to help what has been developing within Syria to improve the capabilities of the opposition,” the paper quoted the consultant, as saying.
“What's going to come next? Who is going to control territory across Syria? We want to give civilians the skills to assert leadership,” the consultant added.
But the activists also face two days of vetting designed to ensure that the programme does not fall into the trap of promoting sectarian agendas or the rise of al Qaeda-style fundamentalists.
“Rather than being about promoting political platforms in Syria, it's about creating a patchwork of people who share common values,” the consultant said.
First Published: Monday, August 27, 2012, 16:43