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America Cobbles Together Two Armies in Syria
The Army of Hermon
It's a strategy filled with bizarre odd fellows, former friends are now enemies, and there is no guarantee training and directing these new "armies" of a few thousand men will succeed. But, when options in Syria are rock bottom for a variety of political reasons, beggars cannot be choosers.
So, President Obama decided to train disaffected rebel fighters and others from a variety of loser rebel groups. These are not the vaunted al-Nusra of al-Qaeda or ISIL because these men are most successful. It does include former Syrian soldiers who now hate Assad. The first of these armies, Jaysh Hermon (Army of Herman) has finished its training and rearming and now on the offensive. This new rebel force is attacking Syrian army forces in the Quneitra and Hermon sectors bordering on Israel. Its objective is to capture the Syrian army’s 68th Brigade headquarters at Khan al-Shih which commands the main Quneitra-Damascus highway. If a success, it would allow the force to approach Damascus from the south and Ghouta. The new army is comprised of eight weak rebel groups but commanded by US, British, Qatar, and Saudi officers from Jordan. The groups are: The Syrian Free Army, the Sayf al-Sham Brigade, the Jesus Christ Brigade, Ahrar al-Sham (an extremist group linked to Nusra and ISIS), and Ajnad al-Sham (whose fighters took part in the battle to conquer Idlib). The army also includes those soldiers who formerly fought with al-Nusra, but left.
Of course, the main concern is what will happen when the trained men are in battle. There are lots of fears consisting of defections, desertions, disobeying command orders. But, to keep the new army in line, the US Command is using threats of cutting wages or their supplies. Most of the soldiers are just men who need a job and willing to take orders to earn money. They are well armed by the US Command. This threat of cutting wages seems to work because in an earlier battle, the commanders were not following orders and when they were threatened with losing half of their wages, their attitude seem to change!
Despite the training, the Army of Hermon still is its own entity with its own methods, culture and rules. Once in the field, the US Command can only hope their orders are followed. It is like a "Frankenstein" because it can elect to not follow commands and the worst that could happen is they lose pay. Even internally, the groups are not 100% friendly to one another. The Free Syrian Army fought al-Nusra, and now, former members of both are under a new banner. How long will the "friendship" last? Just until Assad is gone and the Syrian army crumbles?
So far, the Army of Hermon, seems to have stalled against the last bastion of President Assad that protects Damascus. Assad has gathered his remaining assets and men to create a modern "Stalingrad". As usual, the new army lacks real heavy firepower when compared to Syrian forces.
I think we know how this will end. More wasted money.