Syrian Democratic Forces military councils

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Throughout 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces have established four separate military councils (three in the Shahba region) in order to facilitate and conduct military operations. As of December 2016, the four military councils are the Manbij Military Council, the al-Bab Military Council, the Jarabulus Military Council, and (outside Shahba) the Deir ez-Zor Military Council.


Manbij Military Council
مجلس منبج العسكري
Participant in Syrian Civil War
The logo of the Council.jpg
Flag of the Manbij Military Council
Active 2 April 2016 – present
  • Adnan Abu-Amjad  (military council top commander, 2016–17)
  • Muhammad Mustafa Ali ("Abu Adel", military council top commander since 2017)[6]
  • Faisal Saadoun ("Abu Layla") (DOW)
  • Shervan Derwish (spokesperson)
  • Dilsuz Hashme[7]
  • Ibrahim Semho (Euphrates Liberation Brigade)[7]
  • Abu Jassim
  • Abu Khalaf
  • Ahmad Arsh[4] (Manbij Revolutionaries Battalion)
  • Ibrahim al-Banawi
Headquarters Tishrin Dam (pre-offensive)
Manbij (post-offensive)
Area of operations Aleppo Governorate and Raqqa Governorate, Syria
Battles and wars
Website Official website
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council, in Manbij

The Manbij Military Council (MMC) is a coalition established by several groups in the SDF, the Northern Sun Battalion and the Seljuk Brigade, on 2 April 2016 at the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates. The military council aimed to capture the city of Manbij across the river and many of the council members are local fighters from the surrounding areas.


The Manbij offensive has included the Manbij Military Council, US special operations forces, and minimal YPG and YPJ involvement assisted by US-led coalition airstrikes. The SDF fighters are mostly Arabs. During the offensive, an SDF fighter gave his perspective as "we have Arabs, Kurds, nobody knows how many exactly, we all work under the SDF-forces".[9]

On 5 April 2016, a civilian council was formed in the town of Sarrin by individuals originally from Manbij who had fled when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over. The council consists of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Circassians,[10] and was created to administer Manbij after its capture.[11]

The commander of the Manbij Military Council, Abu Layla, died of wounds he suffered from gunshots in the Manbij front against the Islamic State. He was succeeded by Muhammad Mustafa ("Abu Adel").

On 19 August 2016, the Manbij Military Council issued a statement which announced that it was taking over the security of Manbij city center and villages from the YPG and YPJ, though some of their fighters remained to continue to provide training and other support duties.[12][13]

In early November 2016, a 'battalion' from the Sham Legion defected and joined the MMC.[14]

On 17 November 2016, the rest of the YPG and YPJ fighters left Manbij, leaving the security of the area and training of troops fully to the council.[15]

On 2 March 2017, the Manbij Military Council handed over a vast expanse of territory west of Manbij to the Syrian Army to create a buffer zone between the SDF and Turkish-backed rebels. They released a statement saying that "Defending the civilians and protecting them from the adverse impact of the war, ensuring the security of Manbij and frustrating the invasion plans of the Turkish army against Syrian soil are the goals we have taken for all the peoples living on the lands of Syria,"[16] and that

To reach these objectives [the defense of Manbij] we have transferred, after reaching a new alliance with Russia, the defence of the line to the west of Manbij – where the villages between us and the gang groups [FSA, Ahrar al-Sham] affiliated to the Turkish army are – to Syrian state forces."[17]


The SDF ceded this territory west of Manbij because it is clear that there are limits to the extent that the United States will intervene on behalf of the SDF's interests west of the Euphrates.[16]

On 17 April 2017, it was announced that 200 fighters from the council would participate in the Battle of Tabqa to take al-Thawra, part of the larger Raqqa campaign.[8] On 24 May 2017, an additional 2,200 fighters were sent for the fourth phase of the campaign.[18]

The Manbij Military Council fought in the Battle of Raqqa since 6 June 2017. On 29 August, Adnan Abu Amjad, general commander of the Manbij Military Council, was killed in action during the battle.[19]

On 17 September 2017, Muhammad Mustafa Ali, also known by his nom de guerre "Abu Adel", was appointed the general commander of the Manbij Military Council as the successor of Adnan Abu Amjad.[6][20]

On 27 November 2017, the Martyr Adnan Abu Amjad Regiment, consisting of 250 fighters was established, and joined the MMC.[5]


Al-Bab Military Council
مجلس الباب العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Infobox al-Bab Military Council.png
Active 14 August 2016 – present
  • Al-Bab Revolutionary Front[21]
  • Qebasin Martyrs Brigade
  • Army of Revolutionaries
  • Al-Bab Countryside Martyrs Battalion
  • Free Arima Battalion
  • Martyr Silo al-Rai Brigade
  • Kieba Martyrs Brigade
  • Al-Bab Military Council Female Battalion[22]
Headquarters Manbij
Area of operations Shahba region
Battles and wars

The al-Bab Military Council was formed on 14 August 2016 by seven small SDF-affiliated factions with the goal of capturing the city of al-Bab, west of Manbij and "a symbol of the revolution and the foundation for a democratic, free and plural Syria". The military council called for US support, and later Afrin-based SDF forces launched the an offensive in the countryside, west of al-Bab.[24]

On 31 October 2016, an all-female battalion was established within the al-Bab Military Council.[22]


Jarabulus Military Council
مجلس جرابلس العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Jarablus Military Council
Flag of the Jarablus Military Council
Active August 2016 – present
Headquarters Manbij
Area of operations Manbij District, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Battles and wars

The Jarabulus Military Council is an SDF coalition in the Shahba Region formed by local fighters from the city of Jarabulus and the surrounding areas, who had fled from ISIL.[30]

Abdel Sattar al-Jader, the initial leader of the Jarabulus Military Council and the commander of the Euphrates Jarabulus Brigades, was assassinated just prior to the Turkish military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and the SDF have accused Turkish military intelligence of organizing the assassination.[26]

Deir ez-Zor[edit]

Deir ez-Zor Military Council
مجلس دير الزور العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Deir ez-Zor Military Council and allies announce the start of their Deir ez-Zor offensive.
Deir ez-Zor Military Council and allies announce the start of their Deir ez-Zor offensive.
Active 8 December 2016 – present
Groups Gathering of al-Baggara Youth[31]
  • Rashid Abu Khawla[32] (also known as Ahmad Abu Khawla and Abu Khawla al-Diri; general commander)[33][34]
  • Yasser al-Dahla (also known as Abu Majd al-Rifai,[35] commander of the Gathering of Baggara Youth)[36]
  • Khalid Awad [37][38]
Area of operations
Size 1,300+ (self claim, Feb. 2017)[39]
4,000 (self claim, Aug. 2017)[40]
Allies Elite Forces
Al-Sanadid Forces
People's Protection Units
Martyr Amara Arab Women's Battalion[41]
Battles and wars
Rashid Abu Khawla,[32] also known as Ahmad Abu Khawla, serves as general commander of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council.[33]

On 8 December 2016 the Deir ez-Zor Military Council was created during a SDF conference in Hasaka. The members consist of remnants of the former armed rebel council of the same name, expelled from the city by the Islamic State in 2014, having joined the SDF in November 2016 and former Islamic State fighters which have been re-trained by U.S. forces.[42][43][44] However, the pro-opposition Deir ez-Zor 24 organization denied that the military council's commander, known as Abu Khawla, was a commander in any FSA group.[45]

On 11 December, the council stated that after completing the second phase of the Northern Raqqa offensive they will redirect their focus to Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[34]

On 25 August 2017, 800 fighters left the Elite Forces and was fully integrated into the ranks of the SDF and its Deir ez-Zor Military Council. The fighters accused the Elite Forces of corruption. These forces consisted of 7 units of al-Baggara and al-Shaitat tribal fighters stationed in the eastern Raqqa and southern Hasaka countrysides,[40][46] among them the Gathering of al-Baggara Youth, led by Yasser al-Dahla[36]

On 28 September 2017, Yasser al-Dahla was arrested by SDF military police, which accused Dahla of not effectively participating in the SDF's Deir ez-Zor offensive and the "lack of military discipline". The Gathering of al-Baggara Youth denied these charges, and accused the Deir ez-Zor Military Council of denying Euphrates Shield fighters who defected to the SDF to join the Gathering. Dahla reportedly threatened to cease his group's participation in the Deir ez-Zor offensive.[36] Some time after that incident, Yasser al-Dahla was released. On 9 December 2017, he denied reports that he defected to government forces, while acknowledging the disputes between him and other SDF commanders.[35]

The Deir ez-Zor Military Council clashed with Syrian pro-government forces during the Battle of Khasham,[47] while some fighters of the military council stated in late February 2018 that they wanted to aid the defense of Afrin Region against the Turkish military operation.[48]


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