25th Special Mission Forces Division
|25th Special Mission Forces Division|
Logo of the Syrian Special Forces, used by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division
|Country||Syrian Arab Republic|
|Allegiance||Syrian Arab Republic|
|Size||Battalion: ~1,000 (February 2017)|
4,000 (in 2018)
|Nickname(s)||Tiger Forces or Quwwat Al-Nimr (Arabic: قوات النمر)|
Rys LMV tactical vehicle
|Maj. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan|
The 25th Special Mission Forces Division, mostly known by their former name Tiger Forces or Quwwat al-Nimr (Arabic: قُوَّات النِّمْر), is an elite formation (special forces unit) of the Syrian Arab Army which functions primarily as an offensive unit in the Syrian Civil War. It has been described as a "hot commodity for any government offensive", but their relatively small numbers make it difficult to deploy them to multiple fronts at once. Despite officially being called a division, it is estimated that the actual size of the 25th Special Mission Forces Division is closer to a regiment.
According to Gregory Waters, the Tiger Forces are operated by the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.p. 2 After successful operations in Latakia and Hama,p. 2 Colonel Suheil al-Hassan was tasked a special project by the Syrian Armed Forces Central Command in the fall of 2013—to train and lead a Special Forces unit that would work primarily as an offensive unit. Colonel Hassan handpicked many of the soldiers that would later form the Tiger Forces. Initially, the unit was formed by recruiting personnel from the 53rd Regiment (part of Special Forces Command) and the 14th Special Forces Division, on the other hand, heavy equipment was supplied by the 4th and 11th Divisions.
On 25 December 2015, Suheil al-Hassan was promoted to major general after refusing to be brigadier general the year before. He played a key role in commanding Syrian troops during 2016 Aleppo campaign. Tiger Forces were tasked two times with cutting the key rebel supply lines to rebels in Aleppo city.
In early spring 2015, following Syrian government's loss of the city of Idlib, the unit was reorganised.p. 3 Since the Russian intervention, they have provided the Tiger Forces with infantry equipment; including the AK-74M and 1P87 collimator sights. The Tiger Forces were one of few in the Syrian Army to first deploy Russian T-90 tanks, others being the 4th Armoured Division and Desert Hawks Brigade. In the aftermath of the December 2015 Aleppo Offensive, Tiger Forces deployed a Russian-supplied Rys LMV. It was seen after defeating ISIL in the village of Ayn Al-Hanish in the Dayr Hafir Plains.
The most famous and effective tactic of the Tiger Forces is probing the enemy from multiple axes to find a weak spot, then sending a large mechanized force to that area to capture many villages at once. According to Gregory Waters, they ultimately report to Major General Jamil Hassan, the director of the country's Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
Renaming and reorganization
On 29 August 2019, the Syrian Government reorganized the unit, renaming it from Tiger Forces to 25th Special Mission Forces Division and placing it under the Syrian Army's central command, while keeping Maj. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan as its commanding officer.
According to Gregory Waters for the Middle East Institute in October 2018, the Tiger Forces deploy approximately 24 groups (halfway between a company and a battalion), which organise about 4,000 infantry, as well as an attached artillery regiment and an armoured unit.p. 6 Alongside permanent troops, the Tiger Forces make use of affiliated militia, who remain largely garrisoned in their hometowns until called on to join offensives as the need arises.
List of subordinate units in 2018
- Termah (or Tarmeh) Group/Regiment: according opposition sources has a strength of about 2,000 troops, recruited from northern Hama.p. 6
- Taha Group, officially "Taha Regiment- Assault". It is an assault unit formed in 2014, and is led by Ali Taha. The unit claimed to have 2,500 active members by mid-2018.
- Yarrob Group/Regiment
- Shaheen Group/Regiment (possibly ex-Panther Forces)
- Shabaat Group/Regiment
- Al Hawarith Group/Regiment (Navaris Group)
- Zaydar Group/Regiment
- Al Shabbour Group/Regiment
- Al-Komeet Group/Regiment
- Al-Luyouth Group/Regiment (Shadi Group)
- Hayder Group/Regiment
- Raqqa Hawks Brigade (not to be confused with the Syrian Democratic Forces' Raqqa Hawks Brigade)
The Tiger Forces consisted of as many as 24 subgroups of varying size. Tiger Forces groups/subunits were founded by prominent individuals who often also served as commanders of a particular group (the group often bearing the name of the individual who founded and/or commanded the group).
Cheetah Forces or Qawat al-Fahoud (قوات الفهود) as of October 2018 is the largest sub-unit of the Tiger Forces.p. 8 The Cheetah Forces is subdivided into as many as 14 Company-level units: Cheetah 1 to Cheetah 10, Cheetah 15, Cheetah 16, Cheetah 41 and the 2nd Storming Battalion (Rami Hamadi Group).p. 8 Cheetah 6 were the first soldiers that ended the 35-month long retrieving of Kuweires Military Airbase, while Cheetah 3 along with the Desert Hawks Brigade completed the East Aleppo ISIS encirclement.
Panther Forces – According to Leith Fadel in 2016, the commander was Colonel Ali Shaheen, and they were involved in the Palmyra offensive (March 2016), where they were redeployed to another front after it was over. According to Waters, the "Panther Groups" are actually the Cheetahs, and are not commanded by Ali Shaheen, who instead commands the Leouth Groups.
Armour and artillery units
The Tiger Forces have a dedicated artillery regiment (led by Lieutenant Colonel Dourid Awad) and an armoured unit; both the artillery and armoured units appear to be distinct entities within the Tiger Forces.p. 6
Both the artillery and armoured units are independent from other groups, reporting directly to the Tiger Forces’ command. The size of the armoured unit is unknown.
Affiliated militia units
The Tiger Forces regular groups have local defensive units, as well as operational units which deploy across the country.p. 6 According Gregory Waters, the operational units outside standing groups make up one-and-a-half to two brigades.p. 6
- "Syrian Army's Tiger Forces: History And Capabilities". South Front. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
- Leith Fadel (10 November 2015). "Exclusive: Tiger Forces to Redeploy to Northern Hama". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Andrew Illingworth (29 July 2017). "BREAKING: First video ever of Tiger Forces inside Deir Ezzor". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
- Waters, Gregory (October 2018). THE TIGER FORCES (PDF). Middle East Institute. p. 2,3,6. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
- Leith Fadel (26 February 2015). "Who is Colonel Suheil al-Hassan of the Tiger Forces?". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Leith Fadel (15 December 2015). "Prominent Tiger Forces Commander Promoted to Major General". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- Leith Fadel (28 May 2016). "Tiger Forces mobilize T-90 tanks for upcoming Aleppo offensive". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- Leith Fadel (23 January 2016). "Convoy of Russian T-90 tanks arrive in southern Aleppo". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Chris Tomson (31 October 2016). "VIDEO: Syrian Army deploys T-90 tanks in the battle for Aleppo". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
- Leith Fadel (26 January 2016). "Tiger Forces continue encirclement of ISIS in east Aleppo". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
- Izat Charkatli (24 May 2017). "Syrian Army on verge of kicking ISIS out of Aleppo province: Map Update". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
- Waters, Gregory (23 July 2018). "Tiger Forces, Part 1: The War Crimes of the "Cheetah" Groups". International Review. International Review. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Source: The "Tiger" Cancels the Contracts of 6500 of Its Troops throughout Syria". Enab Baladi. 20 September 2018.
- "Assad Disbands Makhlouf Militias, Renames 'Tiger Forces'". Asharq AL-awsat. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
- "Syrian Army begins 2nd phase of Idlib offensive, several areas captured". Al-Masdar News. 14 November 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
- "A statistical breakdown of army losses in recent southern Raqqa fighting with ISIS". al-Masdar. 31 July 2017.
- "First footage of the Syrian Army's Tiger Forces destroying jihadist militias in Hama". al-Masdar. 27 December 2017.
- "Farsnews". en.farsnews.com.
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (7 July 2018). "The Southern Campaign: Interview with the Tiger Forces' Taha Regiment". Retrieved 9 July 2018.
- "Syrian special forces leave west Palmyra for east Aleppo". al-Masdar. 11 February 2017.
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- "Large number of Syrian Army reinforcements sent to Idlib". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- "السويداء: "فاطميون" و"النمر" و"حزب الله" لقيادة معركة درعا" [As-Suwayda: Fatimion, Al-Nimr and Hezbollah to lead the battle of Daraa]. Almodon (in Arabic). 26 June 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
- "ريف حماة: مليشيات النظام مشغولة بالتعفيش!" [Hama countryside: the regime's militias are busy with Altafish!]. Almodon (in Arabic). 17 May 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
- Leith Fadel (19 October 2015). "Cheetah Forces Capture 30km of Territory from ISIS in East Aleppo: Kuweires Airport Within Sight". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- "The Russian Deployment in Syria and Iraq Makes Its Presence Felt" (pDF). Files.ethz.ch. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
- Chris Tomson (11 November 2015). "Syrian Army and Hezbollah Advance in Southern and Eastern Aleppo – Latest Map Update". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Leith Fadel (10 November 2015). "Cheetah Forces Lift the Three Year Long Siege of the Kuweires Military Airbase". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Leith Fadel (20 February 2016). "Tiger Forces complete the east Aleppo encirclement: 800+ ISIS fighters trapped". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- Leith Fadel (5 March 2016). "Russian Air Force hammers ISIS' oil routes in east Homs as the Syrian Army advances on Palmyra". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
- Leith Fadel (18 April 2016). "Syrian Army cancels the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor offensive". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
- Al-Souria News Who's Who: Suheil Al-Hassan, Syrian Observer, Nov 25th, 2015
- Sam Dagher Russia's Favorite Syrian Warlord: Brigadier General Suheil al-Hassan has won over Putin and played a central role in the assault on eastern Ghouta, The Atlantic 3 March 2018
- Lucas Winter Suheil al-Hassan and the Syrian Army’s Tiger Forces, Small Wars Journal