Free Syrian Army continues to fracture as more units defect

More than 60 units of the Free Syrian Army that operate in the south recently broke off from the main military and political command, which is backed by the US and the West. At least one of the defecting units has fought with an al Qaeda branch, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant.

A commander from the Ansar al Sunnah Brigade, a group that fights President Bashir al Assad’s government in southern Syria, released a statement on YouTube yesterday claiming that 66 units formerly loyal to the Free Syrian Army and its political branch, the Syrian National Coalition, have defected to form their own command. A translation of the statement was obtained by The Long War Journal, and the names of the 66 groups are listed at the end of this article.

“[W]e, the commanders of the military and revolutionary formations in the southern governorates announce withdrawing our recognition of any existing political entity that claims to represent us, foremost of which is the Syrian Opposition Coalition [or Syrian National Coalition] and its command that relinquished the constants of the homeland and the revolution,” the Ansar al Sunnah Brigade commander said.

The commander did not indicate that the 66 groups were joining powerful Salafist-Islamist groups such as Ahrar al Sham or al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front or the Islamist State of Iraq and the Sham (or Levant). Instead, he said the groups would form a separate command and seek to unite other groups in the “Syrian Arab Republic.”

“We also are working to unify the revolutionary forces militarily and politically in all the governorates of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he continued.

While it could not be confirmed that all 66 groups signed onto the statement, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army confirmed that the video “is authentic,” and the FSA is taking it seriously, The Associated Press reported. The spokesman said that General Salim Idris, the nominal commander of the Free Syrian Army, would reach out to the groups listed in the statement and attempt to bring them back into the fold.

At least one of the groups listed has recently fought with the Al Nusrah Front. In September, the Yarmouk Brigade teamed up with the Al Nusrah Front and the Aknaf Bait al Maqdis, or Defenders of Jerusalem, another jihadist group allied with al Qaeda that operates in Daraa, to overrun a border crossing point with Jordan. And in March, the Al Nusrah Front fought alongside the Yarmouk Brigade and stormed an air defense base and military checkpoints, effectively putting them in control of a 25-kilometer stretch of the border from the Golan to Jordan.

The defection of the 66 units is the latest blow to the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition. At the end of September, three large Free Syrian Army brigades defected and joined an alliance with the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, and other large Islamist groups. The statement issued by the parties called for all rebel groups in Syria to “unite under a clear Islamic framework, set forth by the magnanimity of Islam, operating on the basis that Sharia [Islamic law] is the arbiter of governance and making it the sole source of legislation.”

List of groups that defected from the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition this week:

Ansar al Sunnah Brigade

Tawhid al Janub Brigade

Al Shahid Brigade

Al Tahrir Brigade

Special Tasks Brigade

The Elite Brigade

Asifat al Janub Brigade

Al Mayzan Brigade

Shuhada al Hurriyah Brigade

Amud Hawran Brigade

Tabarak al Rahman Brigade

Salah al Din Brigade

Yusuf al Azmah Brigade

Tawhid al Lujah Brigade

Hawran Battalions Alliance Brigade

Hawran Commandos Brigade

A’ishah Brigade

Artillery and Rockets Regiment

The 1st Cavalry Regiment

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment

Al Mu’tazz Brigade

Fajr al Islam Brigade

Al Karamah Brigade

Shuhada al Yarmouk Brigade

Al Haramayn Brigade

Homs al-Walid Brigade

Asad Allah al Hamzah Brigade

Al Habib Brigade

Special Task Brigade

Asifat Hawran Brigade

Usud al Islam Brigade

Jaydur Brigade

Al Fursan Brigade

Saraya al Karamah Brigade

Imam al Nanawi Brigade

Al Ababil Brigade

Al Khansa Brigade

Anwar al Haqq Battalions Alliance

Dir al Lujah Brigade

Sanad Hawran Brigade

Rockets and Artillery Battalion

Luyuth al Furqan Alliance

Ali Bin Abi Talib Brigade

Abu Bakr Brigade

Mu’awiyah Brigade

Rijal al Sham Brigade

Al-Juwlan Commandos Battalion

Hamzah Abu Salah Battalion

The 2nd Division

Ababil Hawran Brigade

Shuhada Dimashq Brigade

Al Uhdah al Umariyah Brigade

Abdallah Bin Mas’ud Brigade

Ahfad al Umawiyyin Brigade

Al-Husun Brigade

Al-Fursan Brigade

Saqr Hawran Brigade

The Alliance of Western Countryside Brigades

Al-Masih Brigade

Al-Sahabah Brigade

Ahmad Khalaf Brigade

Shuhada al Islam Brigade

Bayariq al Islam Brigade

Fajr al Mujahidin Brigade

Fajr al Sham Brigade

Bayariq al Sham Brigade

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    I have no source to confirm this but, I’m getting the feeling that these elements will be aligning with the Saudi’s, since they are ethnically/tribally connected. I anticipate the Saudi’s purchasing directly from the Egyptian Military, who can produce sufficient amounts of dependable infantry munitions and arms of soviet origin. No black market needed. I believe the Jordanians are on the fence still, but they may allow these supplies to be moved across their territory. It makes sense for them to do this: playing the USA, Syria, and Saudis. It would remove any meddling from the West, and aid the military government in Egypt with cash flow. Killing two birds with one stone.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I’m not surprised, if the west did not intervene in Libya, when there was a revolt against Qaddhafi, the fighters in Libya would have joined with Al Qaeda and the so called secular group would have flopped, just like the FSA, who are on the brink of being extinct.
    In Syria’s case, there is no oil or anything of value, unlike Libya, which had those things. For Syria’s case, it’s not worth intervening, because the ship has gone per-say. At the beginning there could have been some intervention, but economic problems in western countries and the public appetite for overseas wars diminishing, I didn’t think there would be any chances of getting involved.

  • m3fd2002 says:
    The next foot to drop will be the cancellation or no renewal of lucrative American aviation and weapons contracts. Putin has to be grinning widely for this sudden opportunity.


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