- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The White House confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. has suspended all non-lethal assistance in northern Syria after rebels aligned with al Qaeda seized the headquarters and warehouses belonging to the opposition’s Supreme Military Council.

“We’re obviously concerned by those reports,” said White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest. He said the administration is consulting with the SMC “to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies that have been provided to” the opposition.

Fighters from the Islamic Front, an al Qaeda-linked coalition of six rebel groups, took control of the Free Syrian Army bases on Syria’s northwestern border with Turkey on Friday.

Non-lethal assistance includes communications equipment, body armor, night vision goggles and medical supplies for rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The developments could weaken the rebels’ overall effort against the regime. Mr. Earnest said the U.S. has been trying all along to align itself with moderate opposition groups rather than extremists.

“That has been a challenging proposition from the very beginning, and that continues to be challenging,” Mr. Earnest said. “A significant portion of our policy towards Syria has been dedicated to providing support to those elements of the opposition that are moderate, that are committed to respecting basic human rights, that are committed to respecting the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and even the political minorities in that country.”