The UK Suspends a Program Accused of Funding Syrian Jihadis

A news story appearing online at The Guardian website on December 3, 2017 reported about the suspension by the UK of a controversial foreign aid program it sponsored along with five other partner nations. The scheme helped fund civilian police inside the Syrian war zone. A British contractor charged with administering the program in Syria for the UK’s foreign office, Adam Smith International, strongly denied allegations of wrongdoing on its part.

The contractor had administered funding for the program in Syria on behalf of the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office. Known as “Ajacs” (access to the justice and community security scheme), the funding for civilian police forces provided by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund reportedly operates in some 70 nations, as well as Syria. The British program in Syria had funded police stations in areas controlled by militias rebelling against the government of President Assad since the end of 2014. The UK reportedly halted its payments into the program in August, 2016 following reports of abuses.

Ajacs funded police stations which allegedly had paid money to a radical Sunni group called “Nour al-Din al-Zinki” (also called Nour al-din al-Zenki or “Haraka Nur ad-Din az-Zanki”) in Syria. The United States reportedly cut all ties to the organization after some of the group’s members allegedly filmed themselves torturing and beheading a young prisoner outside Aleppo in 2015. The group had previously also been involved in the commission of war crimes against relief workers and journalists.

A BBC television documentary entitled Jihadis You Pay For contended the Syrian branch of al-Qaida had selected civilian police officers serving in two of the Free Syrian Police stations funded by Ajacs in Syria’s Idlib Province in northwestern Syria. Additionally, it claimed the payments to civilian police sometimes went to dead individuals or to fictitious names. Reportedly, the Free Syrian Police acted at the behest of religious tribunals which authorized torture and summary executions.

Adam Smith International (“ASI”) responded that instances of dead police receiving salaries occurred infrequently. The company maintains it used funds responsibly. It noted it identified the al-Qaida selected personnel within eight weeks. ASI characterized the contents of the BBC documentary as both “false” and “misleading”.

Labour Party official Kata Osamor called for a full investigation into the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund. She urged the UK’s Foreign Office to supply details about the payments to civilian police forces. She also noted the public deserved to know why regulations for managing aid may not have worked effectively.