Photos released by the BBC show British special forces on the frontline in Syria.
The BBC claims the small contingent is helping “Syrian rebels” defend a base against the Islamic State.
In this case it is British special forces, seen for the first time on the ground, inside Syria, in photographs obtained by the BBC.
The pictures, which date from June, follow an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the moderate rebel New Syrian Army base of Al Tanaf on the Syria-Iraq border. The British soldiers appear to be securing the base’s perimeter.
The New Syrian Army (NSA) is a CIA created mercenary group. It was deployed at al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, near the Jordanian border, in late 2015. It is associated with another manufactured rebel group, Ahmad al-Abdo Martyrs Brigades and Battalions.
There are few if any secular or moderate mercenary forces operating in Syria, a fact reported by The New York Times.
“The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council, the vaunted bulwarks of the moderate opposition, only really exist in hotel lobbies and the minds of Western diplomats,” writes Ben Reynolds. “On the ground, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic Front, and other rebel groups have joined together in fighting against the regime, the Kurds, and ISIS. While coordination between rebel groups is often pragmatic, fighters and weapons tend to bleed between them. Units nominally under the command of the FSA joined Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013, and Nusra forces have merged into ISIS. There is simply no real separation between “moderate” rebel groups and hardline Salafists allied with al-Qaeda. As Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment stated, “You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist.”
As Gareth Porter pointed out in February, there is little separation between mercenary groups vetted by the CIA and al-Nusra and other radical Islamists.
At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the “Syrian Revolutionaries Front” (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.
However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.
The CIA has provided support and munitions to a number of mercenary groups, including:
- 13th Division (Forqat 13)
- 101st Division Infantry (Forqat 101 Masha’a)
- Knights of Justice Brigade (Liwa’ Fursan al-Haqq)
- Falcons of the Mountain Brigade (Liwa’ Suqour al-Jabal)
- Grouping of the Falcons of Al-Ghab (Tajamuu Suqour al-Ghab)
- 1st Coastal Division (Forqat Awwal al-Sahli)
- Gathering of Dignity (Tajammu al-Izza’)
- Central Division (Al-Forqat al-Wasti)
- 46th Division (Forqat 46)
- Sultan Murad Brigade (Liwa’ Sultan Murad)
- 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)
- 1st Regiment (Al-Fauj al-Awwal)
- Ahmed al-Abdo Martyrs’ Force (Quwwat al-Shaheed Ahmad al-Abdo)
- 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)
- The Dawn of Unity Division (Forqat Fajr al-Tawhid)
- 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 Brigade (Liwa’ 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)
- Horan Column Division (Forqat Amoud Horan)
- Emigrants and Supporters Brigade (Liwa’ Muhajireen wal Ansar)
- Military Council in Quneitra and the Golan
- United Sham Front (Jabhat al-Sham Muwahidda)
- 69th Special Forces Division (Forqat 69 Quwwat al-Khassa)
- 11th Special Forces Division (Forqat 11 Quwwat al-Khassa)
- Partisans of Islam Front (Jabhat Ansar al-Islam)
- Al-Furqan Brigades (Alwiyat al-Furqan)