Syrian rebels desert opposition-led all-Arab force, join SDF

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Arab fighters participating in the SDF-led battle for Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Arab fighters from the Baggara and Shaitat tribes in rural Deir ez-Zor have withdrawn from the Syrian Elite Forces and joined the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, according to military sources.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) established Deir ez-Zor’s military council in December 2016 to expel ISIS from eastern Syria. The Syrian Elite Forces are led by Ahmad Jarba, the former President of the Syrian National Council.

The tribal defectors released a statement on Friday, explaining that while they had initially joined the Opposition’s Elite Forces to liberate their countrymen, subsequently “many problems accompanied their work and many vague questions surfaced.”

Specifically, the tribal fighters criticized “the absence of a project or a clear work program for our forces and a lack of seriousness in the revolutionary work.”

“We, the seven battalions from the Baggara and Shaitat tribes, split from the Elite Forces and joined the Deir ez-Zor Military Council and consider the Syrian Democratic Forces as our … military leadership,” the defectors’ statement continued. “We are working under its banner to liberate our city from the [ISIS] terrorist abomination.”

“We thank the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces for receiving us and giving us the opportunity to join their ranks to fight terrorism. We pledge to our martyrs and people, that we will spare no effort to defend them,” the battalions declared.

Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News: “The SDF is now the vehicle, cutting down groups outside of it. This is a big win for the SDF and the Coalition.”

Heras explained that the expansion of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council makes it “more capable of acting as the foundation of a hold force if the Coalition decides to engage in a campaign to seize Deir ez-Zor.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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