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The Netherlands cuts funds for jihadist groups in Syria

DUTCH officials announced the withdrawal of government funding for jihadist groups in Syria on Monday, after the foreign minister confirmed that the programme had failed to deliver the expected results.

The Netherlands, working together with other “like-minded donors,” has spent around $80 million (£62m) on programmes to support “moderates” in Syria with the aim of ousting President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Minister for Foreign Trade Sigrid Kaag sent a letter yesterday to the lower house of the Dutch parliament announcing the immediate end to support for militants.

“The opportunity to quickly change the situation in Syria is extremely small,” they wrote.

Syrian government forces have retaken most of the country from jihadists, winning decisive victories despite Western powers giving practical support to opposition groups and and carrying out their own missile attacks in an attempt to promote regime change in Damascus.

The Dutch government will continue to fund the controversial White Helmets until December, but the group, whose humanitarian credentials have been questioned, only operates in the last remaining jihadist stronghold of Idlib, which is now the target of a major offensive by the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

News of the funding cut follows a damning investigative report by journalists from the Nieuwsuur TV news programme and the Trouw newspaper exposing how 22 militant groups were supplied by the Dutch government with satellite phones and other equipment, including the Toyota pickup trucks used by jihadists across Syria.

One of the groups receiving supplies through the government’s non-lethal assistance programme, Jabhat al-Shamya, has been branded a terrorist organisation by the Netherlands Justice Department, according to the report.

The programme also funded the Free Syrian Police, which operates almost solely in Idlib and has links to al-Nusra-affiliated jihadists whose senior figures approve applications to join the force, according to a BBC Panorama investigation.

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