Three Syrian Regime Defector Commanders In Charge Of The National Army, Who Are They?

The commanders of the National Army in northern rural Aleppo and Idlib (Designed by Enab Baladi)

The commanders of the National Army in northern rural Aleppo and Idlib (Designed by Enab Baladi)


It took the factions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria’s North a long time to make the decision to unify and integrate; it was too late, however.

While the land control is limited to northern rural Aleppo and Idlib province, it is Turkey that has the reins of the decision-making process, being the catalyst for any move the factions embark on and also the force behind the unison.

The decision, it is being said,  is made at a ‘historic moment,’ the repercussions of which have not yet clarified—would it help in sparing Idlib offensive Russia is planning to launch as to take over the province or would it change the map of the east of the Euphrates area, where Ankara seeks to establish a safe zone along its southern borders.

The integrated body, called the National Army, encompasses the National Army, consisting of three legions that operate in rural Aleppo, and the National Front for Liberation, founded in May 2018 with the merger of several Idlib-based factions.

Commenting on the structure of the newly formed National Army, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, under which the Syrian Interim Government functions, said on Twitter that the integrated body is composed of seven legions, with the number of troops amounting to 80 thousand fighters as  a result of the incorporation of the National Front for Liberation.

The unified body is to be run by Major General Salim Idris, as the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Adnan al-Ahmad, being the Deputy Chief of Staff in the areas of the Olive Branch and the Euphrates Shield operations, where he is to be in charge of the three first legions and the commander Fadlallah al-Haji, a leading commander known for being close to Turkey, who is assigned the leadership of four legions in Idlib.

Major General Salim Idris

He is born in 1958 in the town of al-Mubarakiyah, western rural Homs.

Idris defected from the Syrian regime on August 20, 2012, becoming the Chief of Staff of the FSA from December 2012 to March 2014.

Idris masters three programing languages and holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering as a graduate of the University of Aleppo in 1982 and a master’s in information technology, obtained at the Higher Institute of the Sciences of Transport and Communications in Germany, 1987.

In early March, Idris was assigned the Minister of Defense of the Syrian Interim Government, a position that remained vacant following the resignation of Jawad Abu Hattab, who was the president of the Interim Government.

As the Minister of Defense Idris visited the legions under the National Army in Syria’s North, when restructuring the national Army and the factions was being discussed.

Being the Chief of Staff, Idris is famed for the close relationship he has with foreign officials and the U.S., which offered munition and military equipment to the Staff, in addition to training fighters on using shoulder-fired missiles in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Fadlallh al-Haji

Al-Haji was assigned the General Commander of the National Front for Liberation when founded in 2018.

He is also the General Commander of the al-Sham Legion and is known for being largely backed by Turkey.

Al-Haji is now the Deputy Chief of Staff in Idlib province and is in command of the National Army-affiliated four legions.

As a dissident of the Syrian regime forces, last October al-Hakji was assigned the Chief of Staff of the National Army, consisting of the FSA factions in northern rural Aleppo.

He was born in the town of Kafar Yahmoule, northern rural Idlib. He defected from the Syrian regime forces in late 2012 and became the deputy of Colonel Mustafa Abdulkareem, in charge of the Revolution Shield Legion.

Commanders of the FSA informed Enab Baladi that Fadlalah is a “military man of morals,” who later on became the commander of the Military Operations Room in Idlib, as he won the consent of all the factions for his activities and commitment to military work. He, then, joined the al-Sham Legion and was allocated its command.

The al-Sham Legion is famed for secrecy when it comes to its leadership.

Enab Baladi managed to obtain information indicating that the legion encompasses dozens of defector officers, on whom it depends to address its military affairs.

There is no detailed information about the Deputy Chief of Staff of the newly formed body, his photos were even absent from media and social networking sites, until he appeared along a group of military commanders of the FSA on the conference announcing the merger of the factions, held in the Turkish city of Urfa on October 4, 2019.

Brigadier General Adnan al-Ahmad

Al-Ahmad is today the Deputy Chief of Staff in Northern Aleppo.

He was born in the city of al-Rastan, northern rural Homs. He abandoned the forces of the Syrian regime in March 2012 with his son the Lieutenant Mohammad Khiar Adnan al-Ahmad, after he worked as head of the Reconnaissance Branch under the command of the northern area.

In the past years, al-Ahmad held several military posts, as he was the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Syrian Interim Government in the northern and eastern rural areas f Aleppo.

Al-Ahmad was also one of the commanders in charge of the battles that led to regaining the areas in northern rural Aleppo in 2016, which the Islamic State was controlling, and taking over the Afrin area in early 2018.


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