New CEP Resource: Armed Opposition Groups In Northwest Syria

(New York, N.Y.) The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) published a new resource today, Armed Opposition Groups In Northwest Syriaexamining the structure, composition, ideologies, means of communication and recruitment, and violent activities of armed opposition groups operating in the region.

The evolution of Syria’s protest movement in 2011 into an armed revolt against the regime of Bashar al-Assad led to the creation of many armed opposition factions. These militant groups spanned the ideological spectrum, from non-sectarian to pro-al-Qaeda and pro-ISIS, and included both local Syrians and thousands of foreigners.

Many of the smaller factions were either destroyed, joined ISIS or al-Nusra Front, or merged with other similar factions for safety. Between 2017 and 2019, al-Nusra Front—which by then had evolved into Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)—repeatedly launched attacks against the pro-Turkey “moderate” anti-regime groups based in northwestern Syria, gradually consolidating its control over the area. These groups, many of which were original members of the broader Free Syrian Army moniker in the first years of the war, moved into north Aleppo where they joined the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), which had been formed in late 2016. HTS has spent the past three years targeting the extremist independent factions still operating in this territory, particularly those loyal to al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Today, HTS rules Idlib, north Hama, west Aleppo, and north Latakia—together known as Greater Idlib. The SNA controls the area of north Aleppo connecting Greater Idlib to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled Manbij countryside.

The groups profiled in this resource include the main 12 militant factions currently or recently active in Greater Idlib and four of the SNA factions operating in north Aleppo. They are:

  • Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)
  • Ajnad Kavkaz (AK)
  • Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ)
  • Katibat al-Imam al-Bukhari (KIB)
  • Hurras al-Din (HaD)
  • Jamaat Ansar al-Islam (JAI)
  • Junud al-Sham
  • Ansar al-Tawhid (AaT)
  • Jundallah
  • Jabhat Ansar al-Din (JaD)
  • Tansiqiyat al-Jihad
  • Liwa al-Muqatileen al-Ansar (LMA)
  • Ahrar al-Sharqiyah
  • Hamza Division
  • Sultan Murad Division
  • Suleiman Shah Brigade

“Due to years of change and turmoil in Northwest Syria, little accurate information exists on the opposition groups in the region. This report attempts to close this knowledge gap by laying out the essential details to provide a more accurate picture of the various groups and their affiliations and scope,” said CEP research analyst Gregory Waters.

To read CEP’s resource, Armed Opposition Groups In Northwest Syria, please click here.

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