The U.S. government is airlifting 200,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to the Free Syrian Army, although they will expire by June, The Cable has confirmed.
At a briefing for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 7, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told lawmakers that the U.S. government would provide the MREs to elements of the Free Syrian Army within the coming weeks. The officials also said that these MREs were set to expire in June of this year and that they had some concerns that the FSA was not in a position to receive and process the distribution of these MREs competently.
"We will closely monitor the expiration dates so that all MREs are delivered with ample time for them to be consumed before they expire, and the FSA will also be trained to use them before they expire," a senior administration official said.
The U.S. government is confident the MREs will be eaten before they go bad.
"Given the extreme needs, the expectation is that each tranche of MREs shipped will be consumed within a month of delivery either by the FSA themselves or the FSA will distribute them to civilians in need," the official told The Cable.
The official declined to comment on why the MREs being sent to the FSA are so close to their expiration date or where they were being sent from. The official did say all the MREs will be halal-compliant.
The food aid marks the largest instance of direct American support to the fighting rebels in Syria since the revolution began on March 15, 2011, exactly two years ago Friday. The State Department has announced a total of $115 million in humanitarian support for the Syrian opposition, $60 million of which Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled in Rome earlier this month.
But State has refused to say how much money is being spent on aid to the FSA other than to say that assistance is coming from Defense Department accounts that are being drawn down.
According to the website MRE Info, the shelf life of an MRE is between 12 and 60 months, depending on the temperature at which it is stored. Individual MRE menu items may also have different shelf lives. For example, MRE applesauce packets stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit are fine after 36 months, but don't look so appetizing if stored at 80 degrees or more.
You can find some taste reviews and nutritional information on the MREs here.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.