The United States Abandoned The “New Syrian Army” in the Desert

Translated by Ollie Richardson


The creation of the “New Syrian Army” (NSA) was announced long ago. This project was sponsored by the US, and it sought to create one more group fighting against Bashar al-Assad. However, further statements about this affair weren’t made, and on the basis of the formation of the so-called NSA in “al-Rukban” camp there was very difficult situation. The military observer of “” Mikhail Khodarenok understood the situation in this region of Syria.

The US saw the “al-Rukban” refugee camp as the basis for the formation of the “New Syrian Army” and the subsequent completion of its human resources. It is located in the Syrian Desert near the Jordanian border 60km from the settlement of al-Tanf.

The main mass of it are Syrians who fled from the provinces Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in the spring and summer of 2014, when these territories were seized by ISIS terrorists. These people left towards Jordan from the territories that were under the control of ISIS and groups of the armed opposition. They hoped to find a shelter in the Hashemite Kingdom, where already there were about 600,000 Syrian refugees.

However, the Jordanian authorities didn’t accept them, having suggested to place them practically in the desert, in the area of “al-Rukban”. Refugees from the regions disloyal to the government East Qalamoun in the province of Damascus were settled here. And in the spring of 2015 representatives from the tribes that oppose the authorities, fleeing ISIS from the eastern part of the province Homs, mainly from Palmyra and al-Qaryatayn areas, arrived in “al-Rukban”.

As a result about 70,000 people accumulated in the territory of ten square kilometers. 5,000 more were located in the al-Hadallat camp located 40 km to the west.

From the very beginning the population of these tent cities had big problems with access to drinking water, food, and medical care.

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At the suggestion of the coordination of the so-called Military Operation Center (MOC) located near the Jordanian city of “al-Rukban”, the authorities of the kingdom forbade the inhabitants of “al-Rukban” from moving to Jordan.

The location of the camp near al-Tanf was important for the foreign curators of the Syrian conflict. There, the camp for the preparation of the so-called “New Syrian Army” was founded on the intersection of strategic routes between Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Its foundations consisted of representatives of groups from among the representatives of the Arab tribes of eastern and southern Syria. Their relatives were placed in “al-Rukban” as some kind of hostages.

In fact, under the pretext of fighting against ISIS, the US and their allies tried to create a group capable of reaching Damascus in a short period of time. However, they weren’t successful, right up to the beginning of the operation of the Russian Air Force in Syria.

Then in the operational environment there were irreversible changes. Oppositional groups, under the guarantees of the Russian Center for reconciliation between the conflicting parties, agreed to observe the regime of cessation of hostilities with the Syrian army. Thanks to this and the subsequent establishment of de-escalation zones the governmental forces had the opportunity to stage an offensive on ISIS. In parallel, the restoration of Syrian State sovereignty on the borders with Jordan and Iraq began.

Disorder in “al-Rukban”

In these conditions, seeking to maintain a foothold on Syrian territory, the US decided to illegally create its own military base in al-Tanf. In April-May, 2017, instructors and members of Special Forces from the US, Britain, and Norway located equipment and heavy arms, in particular, MLRS HIMARS were located here.

Formally this was done in the framework of the fight against ISIS, however, instead of terrorists, the formations armed and supported by the Americans entered into a standoff with the Syrian troops, which were trying to prevent them from moving from al-Tanf to the Euphrates.

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After this failed, the western curators lost interest in their project. Interested persons were invited to move to the north, to the al-Hasakah province, near the district of the city al-Shaddadi held by the “Syrian Democratic Forces”, created under the auspices of the US. Thus, the Americans planned the formation of the next “Free Syrian Army”.

The majority of the tribal groups refused to migrate and demanded passage to Jordan. A part of the groups already started negotiations with the Syrian authorities, some already came over to the side of the government.

The Americans and British already considerably reduced their presence at al-Tanf, having at the same time ceased to deliver money and arms to those formations that refused to move to the north.

All this led to a considerable worsening of relations between the groups and was reflected in the situation in the “al-Rukban” camp.

The lack of any legal status was the main problem for the refugees who found themselves here from the very beginning. The interests of foreign patrons doomed the inhabitants of “al-Rukban” to a life in the so-called “neutral zone”, which international organizations don’t currently recognize as a part of any State.

For this reason tens of thousands of people can’t be officially recognized as refugees (“temporarily displaced persons”). This absence serves in “al-Rukban” for any recognized authorities and institutes of the UN and other structures as the basis to deny a system of aid to the camp. Humanitarian convoys of international organizations visited there only two times.

Communication with Jordan was actually interrupted in July, 2016, after ISIS attacked the posts of the Jordanian border guards located nearby.

Now the camp is actually divided between clans fighting among themselves, relying on this or that tribal group.

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Severe living conditions put most of the inhabitants of the camp in a regime of survival. Some hundreds of people could return to their native al-Qaryatayn and Palmyra, which is now under the control of the government. Some thousands of natives of East Qalamoun appealed to the authorities of Syria and the Russian military to give them the opportunity to return to their native places, creating another de-escalation zone there.

For the rest, natives of the territories of the Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, which are still occupied by ISIS (fighting for Deir Ezzor is currently at its completion stage) or were transferred to the control of the “Syrian Democratic Forces”, the conclusion of an agreement with Damascus could be a way out.

This would allow the UN, the “International Red Cross”, and other organizations to move from the “cross-border” format of assistance and to the cross-line format – meaning delivery through the line of conflict.

In this format of humanitarian assistance, the authorities of Syria and those who signed with them the agreement on a ceasefire would be responsible for its delivery and distribution.

I.e. it is the scheme that already successfully operates in the de-escalation zones in Northern Homs and East Ghouta, where it was succeeded to prevent a terrible humanitarian disaster.

Another way to solve the problem of refugees in “al-Rukban” – left to the mercy of fate by the sponsors of the “Syrian revolution” – doesn’t exist.

As for the American participation in the processes around “al-Rukban” camp, it is possible to say that the US failed to create the “New Syrian Army”, thus Washington actually left the Syrian opposition under its control to the mercy of fate.


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