Friday, November 2, 2012

Military Councils Proliferate

When provincial military councils began forming in the early 2012, the idea was for every province to have one council, creating a unified rebel leadership in each province capable of coordinating rebel activity. Unfortunately, the council leaders, usually defected colonels, were not able to unite all the provincial rebel groups under their leadership, partly because rebel groups were not dependent on the council for financial or military resources. Today, not only are the councils unable to claim membership of all the major rebel groups in their provinces, but competing senior rebel leaders are forming alternative military councils, leaving provinces with multiple councils.

In Idlib Province, the main council was formed in April under the leadership of Afif Suleiman, an air force colonel that defected in January from his base in Hama. Some major Idlib groups, such as Shuhada Suriya, have operated under Suleiman’s leadership, but in the past two months, two new Idlib Military councils have formed. The first, formed in mid-September under the leadership of Muhanad Yahya Bitar. On October 24, Mustafa Abdulkarim, leader of the Deraa al-Thawra Brigade in Sarmada, formed a new military council comprised of 25 rebel groups located across the province. Abdulkarim’s council appears to be a consolidation of Bitar’s council as Bitar was included in the list of council members. Most of the rebel groups in Abdulkarim’s council are smaller, recently formed rebel groups, with the exception of Bilal Khabir’s Sarmin based Ahrar al-Shamal Idlib, formed in February 2012.

Elsewhere in Idlib, rebels are forming military councils to coordinate rebel activity in a single town, such as the council formed in early September in Kafrnabel. Maarat al-Numan, just to the east, has its own military council as well. These councils are a positive development as they coordinate rebel activity in a single town without undermining other leadership structures.

Uniting the provincial level networks may require creating a new layer of rebel leadership, a supreme provincial military council made up of each province’s provincial military councils. This would make the most sense if each council was geographically distinct, which is not the case. But even so, the mission of uniting rebel operations under a central provincial leadership would be a major step forward and should be pursued.

                                                                                                                               Mustafa Abdulkarim
Rebel Groups Claimed by Abdulkarim's Military Council                                             ِAfif Suleiman


  1. Your blog is amazing. Thank you !! And chapeau, sir.

  2. Agreed with the above! Best analysis on the net. But post more often :)

  3. Asher, can you provide an update with how the war is shaping up? I read conflicting things overall, and I read a particular report tonight which, although much of what I read on the site (debka) can't be trusted, this article has a ring of truth to it: . Syria's strategy must in part involve drying up the key arms supplies coming from Qatar and Saudi Arabia through Lebanon -- first kill off their top leader, then bring in Hezbollah and secure the distribution points. I find this strategy troubling.