Pentagon’s Last Syrian Rebel Group Disbands
The ambitiously-named 'New Syrian Army' folds just 13 months after it was formed with lavish American and British support
Can a Syrian fighting outfit formed and sustained by foreign governments alone be viable? Just intuitively we feel that the answer to that must be no, it is not.
This, however, did not stop western powers from attempting just that, and in the process proving conclusively what a laughable idea it was in the first place.
The CIA has been funneling arms and money into the Syrian rebellion for years but the US military (to its credit) did not necessarily appreciate the fact US-supplied hardware was more often than not ending up in the hands of pretty nasty jihadi types.
The solution? Pentagon was going to train up its own Syrian rebel outfits made up of “vetted” volunteers.
That projected $500 million plan turned out to be an instant disaster of embarrassing proportions. Pentagon planned to induct thousands and numerous applicants indeed sought to join the program (and avail themselves of the salaries) but very few could pass the vetting process. So few that when they were graduated and into Syria it was easy for al-Nusra to take their US-supplied gear.
As a result US military gave up on training up rebels in Turkey and sending them into northern Syria and redoubled its efforts in southern Syria, where jihadists are less central to the rebellion, instead.
In November 2015 the existence of previously unknown “rebel” group, the New Syrian Army, was announced, but it then took almost half a year for the Jordan-based group to have any effect on the war at all.
In March 2016 the group took over the lightly defended al-Tanaf border crossing from ISIS and finally carved out a base for itself in Syria.
In May the group experienced a major crisis when it suffered heavy casualties in an ISIS suicide bombing against al-Tanaf and complained the Americans weren’t doing enough to shield it.
In July 2016 the group failed miserably in its attempt to take a second border crossing from ISIS further east near the town of al-Bukamal. Not only was the New Syrian Army decisively beaten but it could only sustain the attack for just two days before it lost heart.
Islamic State releases horrific video of captured New Syrian Army equipment and casualties in Deir Ezzor pic.twitter.com/kYMHiXuIvX
— John Arterbury (@JohnArterbury) June 29, 2016
In December 2016 the New Syrian Army disbanded.
Such is the brief and undistinguished record of this outfit. But certainly not due to a lack of resources poured into it by its foreign backers.
The New Syrian Army was the best-armed of all rebel formations:
Moving on to small arms, the New Syrian Army is very well equipped. Most US backed rebel groups in Syria seem to use a mix of American supplied weapons and local weaponry. NSyA bucks this trend and almost exclusively uses US supplied weapons. M16A2s (with and without ACOGs), Mk 14 EBRs, M240Bs, M249s, and M2HB Brownings are routinely seen with the group at a higher rate than even Northern Aleppo FSA groups.
It could count on American close air support, artillery support and helicopter medevac:
The coalition support for the New Syrian Army does not stop there. Unlike the Northern Aleppo FSA, the US provides close air support to the New Syrian Army. In a situation similar to the support given to the SDF/YPG in northeastern Syria, embedded special forces likely direct close air support for the NSyA.
The US has also stationed M142 rocket artillery in Jordan to support the NSyA, these rocket strikes are likely directed by on the ground special forces embedded with the NSyA.
There are unconfirmed reports that the US provided helicopter gunship support for a New Syrian Army raid on an ISIS held oil field near al-Bukamal. We were unable to independently verify this claim, but the source is generally quite reliable.
On the other hand, we do have evidence that the US has used helicopters on May 7th to evacuate wounded New Syrian Army soldiers from their al-Tanf headquarters to a hospital in Jordan after a major ISIS attack.
The US military was always careful to say that the New Syrian Army was not raised up to fight the Syrian government. Instead its ambition was to advance eastward and wrestle control of the desert on the Syrian-Iraqi border from ISIS hands.
Left unsaid however, was that had the NSA actually succeeded at its goal it would have been in an excellent position to obstruct the arrival of Iraqi militias riding to the help of the Syrian government after the eventual defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
As it was the outfit once lauded as “America’s tip of the spear” proved far too puny in numbers and morale alike to come close to achieving Pentagon’s dreams. Something no amount of babysitting by foreign armies would change.
In the end the most significant aspect of the entire New Syrian Army project might be that about a hundred crafty Syrians got to collect a decent wage courtesy of Uncle Sam. A rather poor return for an effort which promised to deliver a whole new Syrian army.