National Defence Force (Syria)
||It has been suggested that Jaysh al-Sha'bi be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since January 2014.|
|National Defence Force
قوات الدفاع الوطني
Symbol of the NDF
|Active||1 November 2012 – present|
|Allegiance||Syrian Arab Republic|
|Branch||Syrian Arab Army|
|Garrison/HQ||3002 Damascus, Syria (main HQ)
With elements in:
|Equipment||List of NDF equipment|
The National Defence Force (NDF; Arabic: قوات الدفاع الوطني Quwat ad-Difāʿ al-Watanī) is branch of Syrian Armed Forces, formed after summer 2012 as a part-time volunteer reserve component of the Syrian military, organized by the Syrian government during the Syrian Civil War.
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. Iran has contributed to establishing this new organization, which gathered together existing neighborhood militias into a functioning hierarchy and provided them with better equipment and training.
Young 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 Islamist 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 Defence Force. The NDF is also popular because NDF units largely only operate in their local areas.
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. For that reason, many of their members are drawn from Syrian minorities, such as Alawites, Christians, Druzes, and Armenians. 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.
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, have a strong knowledge of the region.
Struggling with reliability and issues with defections, officers of the SAA increasingly prefer the part-time volunteer reserves of the NDF, who they regard as more motivated and loyal, over regular army conscripts to conduct infantry operations. Recently[when?] they've been used as support infantry to advancing armored units.
An officer in Homs, who asked not to be identified, said the army was increasingly playing a logistical and directive role, while NDF fighters act as combatants on the ground.
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.
Suspected Iranian connection
A member of the NDF has stated that "We have direct orders to collect whatever we want ... Our commanders tell us: 'The properties of your enemies are lawfully yours.' And then they take whatever they want as well." Civilians in Assad regime held parts of Syria have complained of such abuses, with one stating "In areas under government control, there is no unified central command. They are ruled by a cluster of mafia-style gangs," which include the NDF. The NDF has looted both pro-regime and opposition areas, allegedly referring to the latter type of looting as the "Sunni market", as Sunnis are seen as a common target in pro-opposition territory that the Assad government has recaptured.
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We have direct orders to collect whatever we want," he says. "Our commanders tell us: 'The properties of your enemies are lawfully yours.' And then they take whatever they want as well.
- Sinjab, Lina. "Syria: Assad loyalists concerned by rise of paramilitaries". BBC News. Retrieved 1 October 2014.