Military Security Shield Forces
|Military Security Shield Forces|
قوات درع الأمن العسكريParticipant in the Syrian Civil War
Quwat Dir al-Amn al-Askari
Emblem of the Military Security Shield Forces
|Active||2016 – present|
|Area of operations||Syria|
|Part of||Military Intelligence Directorate|
|Allies|| Syrian Armed Forces
Various pro-government militias in Syria[a]
|Opponent(s)|| Free Syrian Army|
Army of Conquest
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
|Battles and war(s)|
The Military Security Shield Forces (Arabic: Quwat Dir’ al-Amn al-Askari), also called the Military Intelligence Shield Force or simply Military Shield, is a pro-government militia involved in the Syrian Civil War that is affiliated with the Military Intelligence Directorate.
The Military Security Shield Forces were formed in January 2016 as a distinct paramilitary unit for the Military Intelligence Directorate's branch 223 of Latakia Governorate, probably in an attempt to further the latter's influence and to compensate for the widespread manpower shortages from which the government suffers since the civil war's beginning.
The new unit's first major engagement occurred during the 2015–16 Latakia offensive aiming at driving rebel forces completely from the Syrian Coastal Mountain Range. In March 2016, the militia deployed its forces to eastern Homs Governorate to participate in the government offensive to recapture Palmyra from ISIL. After the city's reconquest, some Military Shield fighters went on to post images of them posing with the severed head of an ISIL fighter. Most of the militia remained in the area around Palmyra for the remaining summer, though some of its fighters joined the Ithriyah-Raqqa offensive in June, which was ultimately a failure.
Since July 2016, the Military Security Shield Forces became very active in northern Latakia, helping to repel a local rebel offensive, and thereafter assisting in holding the local frontline, thereby cooperating closely with another new pro-government militia, Saraya al-Areen. Meanwhile, the Military Security Shield Forces also joined a major government campaign to encircle the rebel-held parts of Aleppo. In course of the fighting at Aleppo, the local Military Shield fighters under Mudar Makhlouf began to coordinate their operations with the Syrian Resistance and the Republican Guard-affiliated Popular Security and Support Forces. Soon after, one Military Shield contingent under Hassan Mahfoudh was also sent to Hama Governorate to bolster the local defences against a large-scale Jihadist-led rebel offensive.
Notably, the militia also joined Operation Dawn of Victory that saw the fall of the rebel strongholds in Aleppo, and therefore the end of the four-year-long battle for the city. In course of this offensive, images emerged that showed the group being advised by Russian military personnel.
A Military Shield detachment was present at the Palmyra frontline in December 2016, when ISIL launched a large-scale offensive in the area. This unit was later accused by the Tiger Forces to have fled in disarray after the first serious Islamist attacks, leaving Palmyra and Tadmor's remaining pro-government defenders to their fate. Soon after, Palmyra fell to ISIL, and the Military Security Shield Forces were among the pro-government units that sent reinforcements to help defend the nearby Tiyas Military Airbase from the next Islamist attack. The unit was also involved in the following government counter-offensive in the area. On 23 February 2017, al-Masdar News reported that over 900 Syrian Marines had joined the Military Security Shield Forces in order to avoid being drafted into the regular army. In June 2017, the Military Shield Forces took part in an anti-ISIL offensive in eastern Hama. Later that year, the militia took part in the battle to retake all of Deir ez-Zor city from ISIL. Afterwards, Military Shield militiamen began to garrison towns in eastern Syria which had been retaken from ISIL, such as Mayadin. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused the militia of requisitioning food from local civilians during this time.
As the civil war increasingly turned in favor of the Syrian government, the latter began to gradually demobilize various loyalist militias. The Military Security Shield Forces were among those units that were scheduled in June 2018 to be eventually disbanded.
The Military Security Shield Forces have several commanders, two of whom are particularly notable:
- Abu Ismail, nicknamed "al-Khal" ("The Uncle") is from Qardaha, home village of the Al-Assad family, and was a companion of the famous Republican Guard commander Ali Khazzam, who was killed in 2012. Abu Ismail is a veteran of battles in Aleppo, Latakia, Idlib, Hama, Damascus and Daraa, and reportedly also leads several other units besides the Military Security Shield Forces, among them the Martyr Ali Khazzam Battalion of the Republican Guard. He commanded the Military Shield troops that were involved in the Palmyra offensive in March 2016, and was among the militiamen who posed with a killed ISIL fighter.
- Mudar Makhlouf is a long-standing Military Intelligence commander and personal acquaintance of Issam Zahreddine. Before joining the Military Security Shield Forces, he won some renown leading several Military Intelligence units in Deir ez-Zor against ISIL in 2014 and 2015. In this way he gained the nickname "Azra'il al-Dawa'ish" ("Angel of Death for the ISIL people").
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (3 September 2016). "Quwat Dir' Al-Amn Al-Askari: A Latakia Military Intelligence Militia". Syria Comment. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- @vincebeshara (17 April 2017). "New small loyalist group formed..." (Tweet). Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Twitter.
- Tom O'Connor (14 September 2017). "Russian Military, Not U.S., to Lead Battle for ISIS's Final Major City in Syria". News Week. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Leith Fadel (23 February 2016). "Exclusive: Over 900 Syrian Marines join elite military shield forces". al-Masdar News. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017.
- Amir Toumaj (9 December 2016). "Array of pro-Syrian government forces advances in Aleppo". Long War Journal. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (10 December 2016). "Saraya al-Areen: An Alawite Militia in Latakia". Syria Comment. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- Fadel, Leith (13 December 2016). "Reinforcements pour into Palmyra countryside as Syrian Army attempts to push back ISIS".
- Chris Tomson (16 June 2017). "VIDEO: Syrian Army sends nearly 100 military vehicles to defeat ISIS in eastern Hama". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
- Yakovlev, Ivan (20 December 2016). "The fall of Palmyra: Chronology of the events". al-Masdar News.
- "Al-Mayadin city suffers from poor living and health reality, the domination of varied-nationality militias and their sharing of the city, royalties, trafficking in the detainees in return for ransoms, and continuous looting". SOHR. 5 September 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Leith Aboufadel (2 June 2018). "All pro-government militias to be discontinued after southern Syria offensive: source". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Danny Makki (6 November 2018). "Syria's war economy exacerbates divide between rich and poor". Middle East Institute. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Joseph Daher (21 December 2017). "Assad Regime Still Reliant on Fractions of the Sunni Bourgeoisie". Syria Untold. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
- Lujain Rabat (11 March 2019). "Who Will Rebuild Syria: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close". RIAC. Retrieved 24 July 2019.