A jihadist private military contractor (PMC) has been growing in popularity and expanding its business model through the war in Syria, according to a report from Foreign Policy.
The group, called Malhama Tactical, is owned and operated by a young Uzbek veteran of the Russian airborne infantry. He speaks fluent Russian and goes by his nom de guerre ‘Abu Rofiq.’ His company represents the evolving and modernizing nature of jihadist movements, exacerbated by years of high intensity conflict in the Syrian Civil War.
Malhama is small, reportedly only around 10 individuals, but their online presence is remarkable, and expanding. The group operates a YouTube channel, Twitter feed, Facebook profile, and Instagram page. It uses these social media platforms as a way to advertise their services and educate budding holy warriors. While Malhama’s services are not free, Abu Rofiq makes it clear they are interested only in jihad.
The group seeks to operate primarily as trainers and advisors. While they have taken part in the fighting against Assad forces in Syria, where their combat skills make them akin to shock troops, their focus is to make their TTPs widespread throughout the jihadist community.
In many ways, Malhama represents the modern incarnation of the Afghan mujahedeen legacy from the Soviet-Afghan war. During that decade-long conflict, thousands of radicals traveled to Afghanistan to kill Russians, soaking up invaluable combat experience that provided the foundation for groups like Al Qaeda. Mujahadeen veterans from the anti-Soviet campaign took their experience to support insurgencies around the world: in Chechnya, China, Bosnia, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
The war in Syria is providing the same opportunity for this generation’s jihadists.
Watching Malhama’s videos, you can see why they have gained traction with radicals. They are shot with high-definition cameras, with the standard chanting Arabic songs in the background, and are well-edited. Abu Rofiq uses what are obviously the infantry tactics he learned while in the Russian military.
While veterans of western armies may not be all that impressed with watching a guy pie corners and use basic elements of fire and maneuver, it is still light years ahead of typical jihadist fighters featured in most propaganda videos: alternating between shouting into the camera, and stepping out from cover to spray wild bursts of AK fire, before being blown away by the main gun from an Assad tank.
The world will see many second and third order effects of the Syrian Civil War over the coming years. Abu Rofiq and his squad of mercenary jihadists is just one small example.
Featured Image courtesy of Twitter