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Revolutionary Commando Army

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Revolutionary Commando Army
جيش مغاوير الثورة
Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra
Participant in Syrian Civil War
Maghaweir al-Thowra Logo.jpg
Active20 May 2015[1] – December 2016 (as the New Syrian Army)
December 2016 – present (as the Revolutionary Commando Army)
Group(s)Ghosts of the Desert[2]
  • Lieutenant colonel Muthanna Tala[1]
  • Captain Abdullah al-Zoubi[3]
    (since December 2016)
  • Bara Fares[4]
    (media spokesperson)
  • Muhammad Jarrah[5]
  • Khazal al-Sarhan[6]
    (until December 2016)
  • Mozahem al-Saloum[7]
    (spokesperson, former)
Area of operationsHoms Governorate, Rif Dimashq Governorate, and Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria
Anbar Governorate, Iraq
Part ofSyrian opposition Free Syrian Army[12]
Originated asAllahu Akbar Brigade (Authenticity and Development Front)
Allies Southern Front[13]

 United States

United Kingdom United Kingdom[15]

Norway Norway[16]

Jordan Jordan[13]
Opponent(s) Islamic State[17]
Syria Syrian Armed Forces
Battles and war(s)Syrian Civil War

The Revolutionary Commando Army (Arabic: جيش مغاوير الثورة‎; Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, abbreviated MaT),[18] previously called the New Syrian Army (Arabic: جيش سوريا الجديد‎, Jaysh Suriyah al-Jadid,[17] abbreviated NSA or NSyA),[19] is a Syrian rebel group consisting of Syrian Arab Army defectors and other rebels established during the Syrian Civil War. Founded on 20 May 2015, the group sought to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from eastern Syria. They claimed to have received training and advanced weaponry from the Authenticity and Development Front and the CIA in Jordan.[20] In December 2016, the New Syrian Army dissolved and the remnants of the group formed the Revolutionary Commando Army.[21]

In July of 2019, U.S. defense official Mick Mulroy highlighted the work of Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT), a force composed of multiple Arab tribal members, in conducting daily security patrols to clear the 34-mile deconfliction zone around the U.S. military held Al-Tanf Garrison in the southwest of Syria of ISIS fighters. The priority for the U.S. now is to stabilize areas once held by ISIS by working with local partners and ensure the gains of the last five years of fighting endure. [22]

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Despite being mortal enemies for several decades throughout the Cold War, the new world order following the fall of the Soviet Union has seen American and Russian special forces conducting many of the same missions. Combating common foes that seek to spread radical agendas and promote terrorism, and acting as the elite vanguard of their nation's forces, just how similar or different are US and Russian Special Forces? That’s what we’ll explore today, in this episode of The Infographics Show- US Special Forces vs Russian special forces. Special forces refers to elite military units tasked with unconventional or specially difficult missions that require great skill and generally engender great risk. From Sparta's famed 300 who helped thousands of other Greeks hold the line against an invading Persian horde in ancient Greece, to the infamous Otto Skorzeny and his brilliant raids against Allied targets during World War II, special forces have always existed in spirit if not designation throughout human history. At their core, special forces are nothing more than highly skilled operatives conducting missions too complicated or difficult for large conventional forces to accomplish, but it was only after World War II that militaries around the world formally created small elite units and designated them as 'special forces'. No matter their country of origin, all special forces hold five basic mission types for which they are responsible: Counterinsurgency- though the counterinsurgency role of special operations forces has come to the limelight in recent years thanks to America's Global War On Terror, the first heavy use of special forces in counterinsurgency operations came during France's, and then later, America's war in Vietnam. Partisans and terrorists have always constituted a major threat to friendly military forces, and work by undermining any potential gains made by defeating enemy conventional forces. Partisans and terrorists can be difficult to combat, as they do not wear identifying uniforms and wage asymmetrical warfare- or irregular warfare- typically from inside friendly lines. The need to combat these shadowy threats gave rise to one of SF's most important missions: counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency ops are a mix of law enforcement and military missions, requiring detective skills to track and locate insurgents and then eliminating or apprehending them. With the risk of so much collateral damage in terms of civilian casualties, counterinsurgency is a job best left to special forces rather than conventional forces, and an over-reliance on conventional forces to do the job in Vietnam is at times attributed for the poor performance of the US in the war. Unconventional Warfare- without a doubt the cornerstone of special forces operations, unconventional warfare, or UW, covers a very wide range of mission types. These can range from targeted assassination of High Value Targets, or HVTs, disruption or overthrow of governments, or conducting guerrilla raids deep inside enemy territory. A special forces icon, Major Benjamin Tallmadge fought the British during the American Revolutionary War, and was famed for leading raids deep into enemy territory and striking at British supply trains, burning them to the ground or stealing the supplies to bring back to American forces greatly in need of arms and ammunition. Frowned upon at the time by his military contemporaries, specially other American officers who viewed his execution of war as 'improper', Major Tallmadge has become a hero to the American SF community, and a template for special forces doctrine for centuries to come. Direct Action- Direct Action missions can be best described by a motto familiar to many American soldiers: “Our job is to kill the enemy and break his sitt.” Ranging from seizing and capturing high value personnel, materials or locations, to outright destruction of enemy assets, Direct Action engagements are very high intensity and very brief duration engagements meant to surprise an enemy and hit them where and when they are least expecting it. This is another area where special forces shine over the use of conventional forces- with smaller unit sizes and more specialized skill sets, special forces are able to move much more quickly and thus strike in much more unexpected ways or times than larger, less maneuverable conventional forces. Foreign Internal Defense- Foreign internal defense missions involve special operations forces training and equipping foreign allied military forces. Different than Security Force Assistance missions, Foreign Internal Defense ops are more geared at aiding allied foreign forces to combat insurgency, terrorism, and even disrupting enemy special forces missions against them. Today in Korea, American Special Forces regularly train with their South Korean counterparts to respond to and eliminate the threat from North Korean special forces- and with an estimated special forces strength of over 200,000 soldiers, South Korea faces a huge security challenge in the event of war from North Korea's most elite soldiers. Special Reconnaissance- Special Reconnaissance missions are a major part of where American SF forces earn the nickname “the quiet professionals”. Typically consisting of very small unit sizes, SR missions are meant to collect information deep in hostile or politically sensitive territory, with the explicit goal that the unit's presence is never detected. Because Valuable intelligence can be rendered worthless if an enemy realizes it's been discovered, SR missions require the utmost stealth and secrecy. Sometimes SR missions can be carried out in extremely politically sensitive situations, necessitating the complete disavowal of any involvement by the nation conducting them- this means that any discovered or captured operatives may be completely on their own, making SR missions some of the riskiest a special forces operative can undertake. Security Force Assistance- Security Force Assistance operations involve the use of special forces to coordinate with friendly allied militaries and aid them with training and developing military doctrine. Long a hallmark of US Army Rangers, SFA operations may range from making contact with guerillas deep in enemy territory, or simply a deployment to an allied, less developed nation that needs help establishing a proficient military force. So with similar missions, and in recent times with similar terrorist enemies, how do US and Russian special forces compare to each other? With the vast amount of their operations kept secret for decades, it is impossible to ascertain which force is more effective than the other as there simply exists few if any true comparison points. Also due to the difference in ideology and doctrine, US and Russian special forces may undertake many of the same types of missions, but can vary widely in how and why they conduct them. The old adage of apples and oranges may apply aptly here. However, we can look at some major similarities and differences between the two. Both nations operate a number of different units under the general designation of 'special forces', who's missions and training can vary dramatically. On the whole though one of the major differences between US and Russian special forces is the composition of their units. American Special Forces tend to adhere to a doctrine of skill specialization, in which each member of a team has a unique specialty and numerous and overlapping sub-specialties. For instance, one team member will be the team medic, but will also have training in communications and demolitions- though his primary job is to serve as medic. Russian special forces tend to favor a more general approach without unique specializations, which is why on the whole Russian special forces are more focused on the direct action mission of special operations- a deficiency identified in modern times that has seen some expansion in training for Russian operators. While select American special forces such as Army Rangers and Navy SEALS share a similar and more narrow focus, the American special forces community as a whole is a far more flexible organism than Russian special forces, able to undertake a greater variety of missions and bringing more varied disciplines to the table. The narrower focus of Russian special forces is an unfortunate holdover of the Soviet era, when the Soviet military forced their special operations forces to focus almost myopically on the destruction of NATO missiles and high value targets in the case of war. Another major difference between US and Russian special forces is a general disregard for collateral damage by Russian operators, who are more concerned with results than public perception. One famous example is the response to the kidnapping of four Soviet diplomats in 1985 by the Muslim Brotherhood, conducted in retaliation for Soviet support of Syrians. Dispatching the KGB's Alpha Group, the Russian operatives arrived in Beirut, Lebanon just as one of the hostages was executed. Rather than moving to rescue the remaining hostages, Russian operators instead tracked down and took hostage several family members of the terrorists, torturing and dismembering them and sending body parts to the terrorists. The tactic worked and the remaining hostages were released, and no Russian diplomats were molested again for two decades in the Middle East. Yet while Russia's adoption of brutal tactics may have been effective in this specific case, it comes at a major cost of public perception, and could in fact backfire by raising public anger against Russia. Russia's ongoing difficulties with Chechnya is believed to be compounded by brutal retaliatory measures by Russian security forces. Preferring the hammer to the surgical knife though is a long hallmark of Russian military doctrine, and further evidenced by the slow adoption of precision-guided munitions by a military that prefers to intimidate via overwhelming firepower without much regard to collateral damage. This doctrine would once more come into play during the Moscow Theater hostage crisis of October, 2002, when 850 hostages were taken by Chechen terrorists. After two and a half days of stand-off and no concessions from either side, Russian special forces pumped an as-yet undisclosed gas into the building and initiated an assault which would see all 40 terrorists killed, but as an adverse reaction to the mystery gas, 130 hostages also died. When Islamic militants took several hundred school children and teachers hostage in Beslan in September, 2004, Russian special forces once more laid siege to the hostage takers. After a furious firefight all of the terrorists were killed, but so were 186 children and 20 Russian operators- though witnesses reported that many of the Russians died or were wounded trying to heroically shield children from the fighting. Striving for decades to build a safer and more structured world order in order to avoid the mistakes of pre-World War II Europe, the US has for a long time sought to preserve its identity as a global leader- recent Presidential election notwithstanding. Knowing that such heavy-handed tactics as Russia's would endanger that perception, US special operation forces are more focused on avoiding unnecessary deaths and obeying Rules of Engagement. While this may at times perhaps limit their effectiveness in a given situation, it does preserve a generally positive perception of American special forces which has made them welcome in nations around the world as they aid allies and regional partners such as the Philippines in combating their own terrorist threats or improving the capabilities of their military. American SF doctrine of maintaining a 'light footprint' effect however does come with a cost, and in the last two decades they have suffered significant casualties in their efforts to combat terrorism around the world. It is impossible to truly determine which force is better than the other without directly pitting the two nations in open conflict, which thankfully has never happened. However, from the bold parachute raids behind German lines into occupied Soviet territory in World War II, to daring attacks against British supply lines during the American Revolutionary War, both Russian and American special forces share a common heritage of courage and professionalism. Though they may differ in doctrine and ideology, ultimately both Russian and American special forces have one similar job: kill the enemy and break his sitt. So, which do you think is a better approach- Russian doctrine of overwhelming force, or America's precise surgical strikes? Which would you rather serve with? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video What to do if there is a nuclear explosion?! Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!


Operational history

As the New Syrian Army

The New Syrian Army was established by remnants of the Allahu Akbar Brigade, part of the Authenticity and Development Front and formerly based in Abu Kamal.[23][24] The NSA was formed on 20 May 2015, and its fighters were trained in Jordan.[1]

On 16 November 2015, the New Syrian Army was deployed at al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, near Iraq and Jordan, and carried out a raid, with or without US aerial support. No further information was given.[25]

On 5 March 2016, the NSA and another FSA group, the Forces of Martyr Ahmad al-Abdo, captured the al-Tanf border crossing from ISIL in a cross-border raid from Jordan.[26][irrelevant citation]

In May 2016, an Islamic State suicide attack strike a NSA base near al-Tanf, which resulted in a large number of casualties. The attack brought to the surface underlying tensions and a lack of morale within the group, whose members alleged that the US failed to provide them with the equipment promised.[12]

In June 2016, the NSA's base near al-Tanf was hit by multiple cluster bombs from Russian airstrikes, killing 2 and injuring 18.[27] Russia denied responsibility for the airstrike, although photos released by the NSA identified the bombs as Russian RBK-500 cluster bombs which were delivered from Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia.[28]

Later in June, the group launched an offensive against ISIL in Abu Kamal. The offensive was repelled by ISIL.[29]

On 3 August 2016, the New Syrian Army was expelled from the Authenticity and Development Front.[30]

Ghosts of the Desert

The Ghosts of the Desert was a NSA-affiliated anti-ISIL insurgent group that covertly operated in ISIL-held towns in southeastern Syria and southwestern Iraq such as Abu Kamal, Mayadin, and al-Qaim. Since March 2016, they initially sprayed graffiti and raised Syrian and Iraqi flags in the towns, but began to conduct covert military activities the next month, such as sabotage, assassinations of ISIL fighters, and marking positions for airstrikes. The group supplied military intelligence to the US Air Force that allowed them to kill Abu Waheeb in May 2016 in the Iraqi town of Rutbah after the group marked his location.[2]

As the Revolutionary Commando Army

Members of the Revolutionary Commando Army and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.
Members of the Revolutionary Commando Army and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.

In December 2016, the New Syrian Army dissolved after internal disputes. Some of its remnants regrouped under the name of the Revolutionary Commando Army, led by Captain Abdullah al-Zoubi.[3]

On 30 April 2017, the Revolutionary Commando Army launched an offensive into eastern Syria, reaching the Deir ez-Zor Governorate and capturing the village of Humaymah, south of the T2 pumping station.[31][32] Two days later, the rebels attacked and captured several sites in the region, including: Tarwazeh al-Wa`er, Sereit al-Wa`er, Mount Ghrab, Swab desert, al-Kamm Swab, the T3 Pumping Station, Me`izeileh and Tarwazeh al-Attshaneh.[33] On 6 May, FSA groups including the RCA captured several sites in the Badiya region of Homs Governorate to the south of Palmyra including Dahlouz and al-Halbeh areas.[34] The RCA was supplied with IAG Guardian armoured personnel carriers by the US during the operation.[35]

In late November 2017, at least 180 fighters in the Revolutionary Commando Army were relieved of duty. According to the United States Central Command, the fighters "completed their military service", while according to the group's spokesman, they were removed due to their "weak performance". As result, between 40 and 60 fighters were left in the group.[5] The unit increased in numbers after that point, with c. 300 fighters serving with the Revolutionary Commando Army by October 2018.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Muhammad Ersan (1 June 2017). "Syrian rebel commander: 150 US troops at al-Tanf base". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 12 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b "THE GHOSTS OF THE DESERT: FIGHTING ISIS FROM WITHIN". Conflict News. 12 August 2016. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b ""The new Syrian Army" new look .. "commando revolution," the formation of US support to fight state regulation in Homs". Shaam Network. 22 December 2016.
  4. ^ Muhannad Hourani (25 May 2017). ""Commando revolution" is preparing to cover the battle of Abu Kamal coalition". Arabi 21.
  5. ^ a b c Waleed Khaled a-Noufal and Justin Clark (21 November 2017). "US-backed forces in southeastern Syria downsize, take on smaller role". Syria Direct.
  6. ^ "New Syrian Army will 'liberate eastern Syria' from IS". The New Arab. 12 March 2016.
  7. ^ "What is the truth Revolution Army commando attack on the regime in the Syrian desert?". Qasioun News Agency. 26 May 2017.
  8. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "U.S.-backed rebels launched their first attack against Islamic State. They lost".
  9. ^ Weiss, Michael (1 July 2016). "They Rescued This Town from ISIS, Then Lost It".
  10. ^ Cody Roche Syrian Opposition Factions in the Syrian Civil War, Bellingcat, 13 August 2016
  11. ^ a b Kube, Courtney (22 October 2018). "Inside the remote U.S. base in Syria central to combating ISIS and countering Iran". NBC News.
  12. ^ a b "The last remaining Pentagon-trained rebel group in Syria is now in jeopardy". Washington Post. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  13. ^ a b "The New Syrian Army: America's "Tip of the Spear" Against ISIS in the Syrian Desert". Rao Komar. 31 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Russian air strikes kill Syrian refugees on Jordan border: Rebels". Middle East Eye. 13 July 2016.
  15. ^ British special forces 'operating inside Syria alongside rebels', Telegraph 6 June 2016
  16. ^ "Holder tett om støtte". Klassekampen (in Norwegian). 16 June 2018. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Syria's New Army". BBC. 10 November 2015. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  18. ^ Coalition: MaT still a vetted Syrian force, remains at At Tanf, The Defense Post
  19. ^ "The New Syrian Army (@NSyA_Official)". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  20. ^ "CIA Funded and SOF Trained: The New Syrian Army Hits the Ground". SOF Rep. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  21. ^ ""Revolution Commando" New Military Formation to fight IS group of Palmyra". El-Dorar al-Shamia. 27 December 2016.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Department of Defense Press Briefing by Colonel Garver via teleconfere". United States Department of Defense. 29 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Syrian Opposition Factions in the Syrian Civil War - bellingcat". Bellingcat. 13 August 2016.
  25. ^ "New U.S.-backed offensive in northern Syria advances on ISIS outposts". McClatchy DC. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  26. ^ "Syria Rebels take border crossing from IS". Associated Press. 5 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Russian warplanes bomb elite British-backed Syrian rebels". The Telegraph. 17 June 2016.
  28. ^ "The al-Tanf Bombing: How Russia Assisted ISIS by Attacking an American Backed FSA Group with Cluster Bombs". Bellingcat. 21 June 2016. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  29. ^ "US Backed New Syrian Army Suffers Crippling Defeat". Archived from the original on 2016-08-13. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  30. ^ "Syria rebel coalition cuts ties with US-backed group". NOW. 4 August 2016. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  31. ^ "جيش مغاوير الثورة لـ "قاسيون": سيطرنا على حميمة ونستعد لدخول دير الزور". Qasioun News Agency (in Arabic). 30 April 2017.
  32. ^ "المعارضة مدعومة من التحالف الدولي تسيطر على بلدة حميمة بريف دير الزور الجنوبي". Ittihad Press (in Arabic). 30 April 2017.
  33. ^ Yakovlev, Ivan (2 May 2017). "US-backed militants advance deep inside ISIS-controlled Syrian desert". Al-Masdar News.
  34. ^ Leith, Fadel (6 May 2017). "Video footage of FSA troops advancing 70km south of Palmyra". Al-Masdar News.
  35. ^ "Southern factions receive US military vehicles". Al Etihad Press. 10 May 2017.
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