How To Form a Rebel Battalion in Syria


February 14, 2013

Reporting from Syria for the London Review of Books, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad breaks it down in “five easy lessons”:

First, you need men, most likely young men from the countryside, where the surplus of the underemployed over the centuries has provided for any number of different armies and insurgencies. Weapons will come from smugglers, preferably via Iraq or Turkey. You will also need someone who knows how to operate a laptop and/or a camcorder and can post videos on the internet – essential in applying for funds from the diaspora or Gulf financiers. A little bit of ideology won’t hurt, probably with a hint of Islamism of some variety. You’ll also need money, but three or four thousand dollars should be enough to start you off.

Abdul-Ahad has made a career of reporting from the world’s most dangerous war zones. As a reporter for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he has covered fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and most recently, Syria, where he was a correspondent for the FRONTLINE film The Battle for Syria.

Embedded with rebel fighters, his latest dispatch offers an up-close look into amplifying factions within the Syrian insurgency. It follows battalions and military councils feuding for power, weapons and money, as well as foreign support, which jihadi groups seem to have plenty of.

“Maybe we should all become jihadis,” one Syrian man laments to Abdul-Ahad about the lack of American assistance. “Maybe then we’ll get money and support.’

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