Map: Syria’s Shifting Battle Lines

Share:

February 11, 2014

Since the uprising began nearly three years ago, the war in Syria has become increasingly diffuse. The high security risk for journalists and the fluid nature of the conflict make it difficult to mark boundaries with certainty. Areas of control are constantly shifting as armed groups claim, and lose, territory.

This map, assembled from data shared with FRONTLINE by researchers who have consulted extensively with Syria’s armed groups, shows the best available information about the main actors’ areas of control as of early February 2014.

The Syrian government still maintains the broadest swath of territory. In the southern region, its troops have surrounded pockets of rebel fighters who are now cut off from aid and supplies. The opposition, meanwhile, has fractured into more than 5,000 armed groups with shifting alliances. And the Kurdish forces in the north fight only for themselves, at times seemingly on the side of the government, and at others in support of the rebels.

A new actor, ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (the Levant), emerged in April 2013. It’s composed of a few thousand foreign militants, battle-hardened from waging an insurgency in Iraq. ISIS has quickly become the most radical group in Syria, battling other rebel groups and imposing a strict interpretation of Shariah law. Last week, Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri publicly disowned the group, after previously encouraging ISIS and the other rebels to fight President Bashar al-Assad, not each other.


Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@sarah_childress

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

A Look at Colin Powell’s Legacy, Following His Death at 84
Colin Powell, who was America’s first Black secretary of state, died Oct. 18 at age 84. FRONTLINE traced his roles in shaping the Gulf War and then the Iraq War.
October 18, 2021
Shooting Not to Kill. This Utah Case Fuels a Debate That Frustrates Police.
If there’s nothing barring officers from shooting someone in the leg or arm, it raises a question many civilians wonder about: Why don’t officers, if possible, shoot a suspect there, instead of in the chest or head? It’s a question that frustrates and annoys many in law enforcement.
October 18, 2021
PANDORA PAPERS: Video & Major Stories From Our Partners
Watch the trailer for an upcoming FRONTLINE investigation into the Pandora Papers, exposing how U.S. trusts are sheltering millions in controversial assets, and read major stories from our ICIJ partners.
October 17, 2021
Former Boeing 737 Max Pilot Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Grand Jury Indictment
Mark Forkner’s role at Boeing leading up to the crashes that killed 346 people was detailed by The New York Times and FRONTLINE in ‘Boeing’s Fatal Flaw.’
October 15, 2021