April 11, 2013

Ahrar al Sham – A Rising Force in the Syrian Civil War

While the al-Nusra Front gains most of the headlines in the Syrian Civil War, there is another group, called Ahrar al Sham, which is at least Al Nusra’s equal, if not even more important.  A loose conglomeration of Islamist groups from across Syria, Ahrar al Sham, “The Islamic Movement of the Free Men of Greater Syria,” has considerable support, an active IO campaign that surpasses anything Al Nusra has put out, and is growing fast, claiming 83 rebel units under its banner as of January 2013, up from 50 in July 2012.

The group’s leadership has kept itself in the shadows; only one commander, known only as Abu Anas, has his name anywhere in the public domain.  There are rumors of a leader known as Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi, but his identity is similarly murky.  They say only that their leadership were political prisoners of the Assad regime, released from Sednaya Prison in May 2011 as part of an amnesty by the government.

Ahrar al Sham’s Information Operations campaign has made a big deal about being more moderate than the Al Nusra Front.  While overtly Islamist in character, they stress that they are willing to replace the Assad regime with a secular government, as long as Islamic law is established and observed.  They do tend to prefer traditional insurgent attacks and avoid the suicide bombings that Al Nusra is known for, and while Al Nusra really just blows stuff up, Ahrar al Sham also conducts outreach and relief programs for civilians in Syria.

Watch: Ahrar al Sham Overrunning al-Jarrah Airbase


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About the Author

is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. He is now a tactical tracking instructor and the author of the military thrillers Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows.

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  • AUNITEDPEOPLE

    JHR Yeah, they have been getting better and better at that over the years, both in their particular realm of operation and through a complacent world-wide media that, in many cases, are complicit in propagating this kind of stuff just to make the US look bad.

  • JHR

    AUNITEDPEOPLE JHR Propaganda and mis-information is an enormous part of the AQ strategy in the Global Jihad. Quite frankly- it works.

  • AUNITEDPEOPLE

    JHR Oh I agree with you 100%, just sharing a little info. It would be very easy to peel almost any kind of information that you would like spread, just by talking to the right people. To the rest of the world, this is just optics, not fact. However, there is most likely a lot of this going on in certain places in the country, which is the dangerous part, if believed by even small amounts of people. Something tells me that the more removed from population centers, the easier it would be to provide locals with dis-information, even to the point of making your particular group appear to be the heroes.

  • JHR

    AUNITEDPEOPLE Before we jump to any conclusions on this article you posted, it may be prudent to realize that the people quoted in the article could be pro AQ. This is their tactic- to spread propaganda against the U.S. Certain Fighters and their families and their comtades know that U.S. aid is present; and not just for Flour. It is no secret that the U.S. is aiding Syrian fighters. If we Google the subject, many links will appear. It would be interesting to hear from many more people- outside of Alleppo as well. We can make an opinion about what Syrians know or think based on this article link just posted.

  • AUNITEDPEOPLE

    More wonderful news on the Syrian front! http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/04/15/in_syria_al_qaeda_linked_terrorists_get_credit_for_american_aid