National Defense Force (Syria)
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|National Defense Force
قوة الدفاع الوطني
NDF SSI & Logo.
|Active||Late 2012 – present|
The goal was to form an effective, locally based, highly motivated force out of pro-government militias. The NDF, in contrast with the Shabiha forces, receives salaries and military equipment from the government. Michael Weiss at NOW Lebanon has described them as a "newly-minted guerrilla army" which has become "a professionalized reinvention of the pro-regime Popular Committees, which were, prior to 2013, locally armed Alawite militias that coordinated closely with the Syrian security services, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah. Now the Committees are being trained up, along with Jaysh al-Sha'bi, the Syrian "Basiji," as the primary purveyors of state violence". Aron Lund of the CTC Sentinel concurred that the NDF were brought about by the merger of hundreds of Popular Committees and other paramilitary groups into a more formalised structure within the security apparatus.
The United States government has said that Syria's ally, Iran, is helping build the group on the model of its own Basij militia, with some members reportedly being sent for training in Iran. It has been described by The Economist as "a shadowy new militia".
Youth and unemployed men join the NDF, which some see as more attractive than the Syrian Army, considered by many of them to be infiltrated by rebels, overstretched and underfunded. Many of the recruits join the group because members of their families had been killed by rebel bands or in response to the ultra-Islamic rebels that are violently oppressing, torturing and killing non-Muslims or those unwilling to live under Islamic law. In some Alawite villages almost every military age male has joined the National Defense Force. The NDF is also popular because NDF units largely only operate in their local areas. Furthermore, unlike the Syrian Army, NDF soldiers are allowed to take loot from battlefields, which can then be sold on for extra money.
The force acts in an infantry role, directly fighting against rebels on the ground and running counter-insurgency operations in coordination with the army which provides them logistical and artillery support. The NDF is projected as a secular force many from their members are drawn from Syrian minority groups such as Alawites, Christians, and Druze. According to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, the creation of the group has been successful, as it had played a crucial role in improving the military situation for the government forces in Syria from the 2012 summer, when many analysts predicted the downfall of Assad and his government.
The force is reported to be 60,000-strong as of June 2013 and is set to grow to 100,000 (reached in August 2013). The period of training can vary from 2 weeks to a month depending on whether an individual is being trained for basic combat, sniping, or intelligence. The force has a 500-strong women's wing called "Lionesses of National Defense" which operates checkpoints.
Units mostly operate in their local areas, although members can also choose to take part in army operations. Others have claimed that the NDF does most of the fighting because NDF members, as locals, having a strong knowledge of the region.
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- Michael Weiss (17 May 2013). "Rise of the militias". NOW.
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- Lund, Aron (2013-08-27). "The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria". CTC Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
- "Closer to the capital". The Economist. April 13, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
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