Syrian Rebel Groups

An Analysis of Jaish al-Thuwar (The Army of Revolutionaries) – A Component of the Syrian Democratic Forces

On May 3, 2015 a new Free Syrian Army coalition was established, the Army of Revolutionaries (Jaish al-Thuwar), aiming to fight both the Syrian regime and ISIS. The coalition claimed operations on front-lines in Idlib, Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Latakia and Raqqah provinces. It was an ambitious grouping, uniting Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens together and was notable for containing several brigades once affiliated with both the Syria Revolutionaries Front (SRF) and the Hazm (Steadfast) Movement as well as brigades aligned with the Kurdish YPG. The Army also contained Christians in its ranks. Containing seven original groups, several more brigades joined in the following weeks and the Army claimed a total of around 3,000 fighters making it a notable presence by Syrian rebel standards. The group claimed to reject sectarianism and any efforts to divide Syria. Due to the inclusion of Kurdish brigades many charged that the Army was affiliated with the PYD, but the Army had stressed it was a part of the rebel mainstream. The original seven components of the Army are as follows:

  • Homs Revolutionaries Grouping (Tajammu Thuwar Homs)
  • Northern Sun Battalions (Kata’ib Shams al-Shamal)
  • Special Operations Brigade (Liwa al-Maham al-Khassa)
  •  Regiment 777 (Fawj 777)
  • Kurdish Front (Jabhat al-Akrad)
  • 99th Infantry Brigade (Liwa 99 Masha’)
  • Sultan Selim Brigade (Liwa al-Sultan Selim)

(more…)

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The Moderate Rebels: A Growing List of Vetted Groups Fielding BGM-71 TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missiles

This analysis was originally published on the NotGeorgeSabra Blog

 

The most notable form of direct American support to the Syrian opposition has been the supply of BGM-71 TOW tube launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided anti-tank missiles to rebel groups, vetted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The missiles themselves come from Saudi Arabia’s stockpile, although by law the supply of American-made weapons to a third party must be approved by the U.S. Reports indicate that the TOWs are handed out to groups by the Northern and Southern MOC (Military Operations Command) based in Turkey and Jordan respectively. These command centers that are run by Western and Arab intelligence agencies. Groups apply for missiles for specific operations, and small batches are supplied by the MOC as needed. No more than a handful are given to a group at any time. In order to prove the rebel groups are not selling them or giving them away, each launch must be recorded and spent casings returned to the MOC. It is due to these requirements that there is such a wealth of knowledge regarding which groups have been supplied with and fielded these weapons.

While the TOWs themselves are not a super-weapon by any means, and are comparable to other ATGMs that are present in Syria they indicate a visible form of American involvement. Several hundreds of missiles have been supplied to opposition brigades, and the program is now a common and devastating fixture on the battlefield. However because each launch must be recorded, a false impression is created that the TOWs are more influential in the war than they actually are. The Syrian rebels have at their disposal a wide variety of anti-tank weaponry, almost entirely captured from Syrian government stockpiles, none of which are required to be recorded and uploaded onto the internet with each launch. These include guided missiles such as the Russian-made 9M113 Konkurs, 9K1152 Metis-M, 9M133 Kornet, Chinese-made HJ-8 (supplied by Qatar), French-German MILAN ATGM as well as non-guided anti-armour weaponry.

This covert and highly successful TOW program is run by the CIA and is separate from the American Department of Defense’s highly publicized and now-failed train-and-equip program that sought to counter only ISIS. Despite the safe measures put in place by the MOC, both the Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State have captured a small number of these weapons. Regardless the program seems to not only be continuing but constantly expanding. The following is a list of all rebel groups that have used TOW missiles. The groups approved by the CIA to take part in the TOW program overwhelmingly belong to the FSA and all have stated their commitment to letting the Syrian people decide their own future. The strengths of these groups range from several hundred to several thousand fighters.


List Overview: 

13th Division (Forqat 13)

101st Division Infantry (Forqat 101 Masha’a)

Northern Division (Forqat al-Shamali)

Mountain Hawks Brigade (Liwa’ Suqour al-Jabal)

Army of Victory (Jaish al-Nasr)

1st Coastal Division (Forqat al-Awwali al-Sahli)

2nd Coastal Division (Forqat al-Thani al-Sahli)

Army of Glory (Jaish al-Izza’)

Central Division (Al-Forqat al-Wasti)

Army of Liberation (Jaish al-Tahrir)

Sultan Murad Brigade (Liwa’ Sultan Murad)

16th Division Infantry (Liwa’ 16 Masha’a)

Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, (Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki)

Mujahideen Army/Army of Holy Warriors (Jaish al-Mujahideen)

Revolutionaries of al-Sham Brigades (Kata’eb Thuwar al-Sham)

Fastaqem Kama Umirta Union (Tajammu Fastaqem Kama Umirta)

Elite Islamic Battalions (Kata’eb Safwah al-Islamiyah)

The Sham Legion (Faylaq al-Sham)

1st Regiment (Al-Fauj al-Awwal)

Northern Thunder Brigade (Liwa’ Ra’ad al-Shamal)

Ahmed al-Abdo Martyrs’ Force (Quwwat al-Shaheed Ahmad al-Abdo)

2nd Infantry Division (Forqat al-Thani Masha’a)

1st Brigade (Liwa’ al-Awwal)

Al-Rahman Legion (Faylaq al-Rahman)

Martyrs of Islam Brigade (Liwa’ Shuhadah al-Islam)

Yarmouk Army (Jaish al-Yarmouk)

Lions of Sunnah Division (Forqat Usood al-Sunnah)

the 18th March Division (Forqat 18 Adhar)

Southern Tawhid Brigade (Liwa’ Tawhid al-Junoub)

Hamza Division (Forqat al-Hamza)

1st Artillery Regiment (Al-Fauj al-Awwal Madfa’a)

Syria Revolutionaries Front – Southern Sector (Jabhat Thuwar Souriya)

The First Corps (Faylaq al-Awwal)

Salah al-Din Division (Forqat Salah al-Din)

Omari Brigades (Tajammu Alwiyat al-Omari)

Unity Battalions of Horan Brigade (Liwa’ Tawhid Kata’eb Horan)

Youth of Sunnah Force (Quwwat Shabbab al-Sunnah)

Moataz Billah Brigade (Liwa’ Moataz Billah)

Sword of al-Sham Brigades (Alwiyat Saif al-Sham)

Dawn of Islam Division (Forqat Fajr al-Islam)

Supporters of Sunnah Brigade (Liwa’ Ansar al-Sunnah)

Emigrants and Supporters Brigade (Liwa’ Muhajireen wal Ansar)

Military Council in Quneitra and the Golan

Division of Decisiveness (Forqat al-Hasm)

46th Infantry Division (Forqat 46 Masha’a)

Partisans of Islam Front (Jabhat Ansar al-Islam)

Al-Furqan Brigades (Alwiyat al-Furqan)

Movement of Steadffastness (Harakat Hazm)

Syria Revolutionaries Front (Jabhat Thuwar Souriya)

United Sham Front (Jabhat al-Sham Muwahidda)


Groups in North-Western Syria (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama Governorates):

13Div

13th Division (Forqat 13 – الفرقة 13): Formed in 2013, the 13th Division commands more than 1,800 fighters in the Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates. The Division is divided into 10 companies and is headquartered in the town of Ma’arrat al-Numan in Idlib. It was among the first rebel brigades to begin receiving TOWs. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Al-Sa’oud, the 13th Division has fought in most major battles in the three governorates it operates in. It also participated in the 2015 Idlib and Ghab Plains offensives and has played a major role in the defense of the northern Hama salient against the October 2015 Russian-supported offensive. The Division has been credited with destroying dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles with TOW missiles. The group was listed as a part of the now-defunct Syrian Revolutionary Command Council, and was a member of the Fifth Corps before its dissolution. In Aleppo it operates under the Aleppo Conquest (Fatah Halab) Operations Room. The group also fields units in the Azaz-Mare’a pocket in the northern Aleppo countryside, where it is active in the fight against ISIS. The 13th Division receives funding from the MOC and it advocates the creation of a civil state. The Division has also had tensions with the Nusra Front in the past, and there have been instances when their commander Ahmad al-Sa’oud has been kidnapped by the Nusra Front (now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), only to be released after negotiations and mediation by other groups. Tensions boiled over into open fighting in early 2016 when the Nusra Front, assisted by Jund al-Aqsa fighters attacked 13th Division checkpoints and bases in Idlib. However they were unable to finish off the 13th Division due to the broad popular support the group enjoys in the town of Ma’rrat al-Numan, where civilians have created a protest movement against the excesses of the Nusra Front. While the 13th Division is no longer in open conflict with Al-Nusra (the two were involved in the August 2016 offensive to break the siege of eastern Aleppo), the protest movement continues. Social Media: YouTubeYouTube (old channel) (more…)