Mark Ward is the U.S. State Department's senior adviser on assistance to Syria, and when he heard the Syrian border town of Azaz was overrun by an offshoot of al-Qaida in September, he knew it was time to get creative again.
"You always have to have a plan B in this kind of work," he says.
Ward is based in Turkey. His job is to oversee a growing and unusual U.S. humanitarian assistance program in rebel-held areas in seven provinces across northern Syria.
A team of chemical weapons experts has arrived in Syria, where they will begin the long and complicated task of destroying the country's chemical weapons arsenal. Under a plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the weapons are to be destroyed by next June.
Syria is wracked by a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and forced more than 2 million others to flee the country, according to recent U.N. figures.