The Cable

Libyan rebels get first tranche of U.S. aid: 10,000 MREs

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted last month about the decision to start giving non-lethal aid to the Libyan rebel army. Yesterday, the rebels got their first delivery: 10,000 packets of pre-packaged food, what the military calls Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

"This shipment, authorized under the President's April 26th drawdown, consisted of more than 10,000 halal meals ready to eat, so-called MREs, that were transferred from Department of Defense stocks in support of the [Transitional National Council]'s efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under the threat of attack," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at Tuesday's briefing.

The meals are part of the $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libyan rebels the White House approved on April 26. That approval came 11 days after the State Department notified Congress that it wanted to spend the funds to help the Libyan rebel army fight off the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.

"One of the reasons why I announced $25 million in non-lethal aid yesterday, why many of our partners both in NATO and in the broader Contact Group are providing assistance to the opposition, is to enable them to defend themselves and to repulse the attacks by Qaddafi forces," Clinton said April 21.

But while the State Department's notification said the money would go to things like "vehicles, fuel trucks and fuel bladders, ambulances, medical equipment, protective vests, binoculars, and non-secure radios" -- all items identified by the Libyan opposition's Transitional National Council (TNC) as urgently needed -- now the list is much more weighted to humanitarian goods.

Toner said Tuesday that the shipments were meant to be in "support of the TNC's efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under the threat of attack." More items are en route to Benghazi, including medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, and personal protective gear, he said.

"We continue to work with the TNC to determine what additional assistance requirements we might be able to support in the coming weeks," said Toner.

Tomorrow will be a great chance to do that, as TNC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril arrives in Washington.

AFP/Getty Images


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