Map: Syria’s Shifting Battle Lines

by and Sarah Childress
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

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.

blog comments powered by Disqus

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.

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.