Three-phase plan to discharge soldiers in Syria

General Ali Mahmoud Abbas, Chief of the Army and Armed Forces, visiting military units in southern Syria - July 16, 2024 (Syrian Ministry of Defense)

General Ali Mahmoud Abbas, Chief of the Army and Armed Forces, visiting military units in southern Syria - July 16, 2024 (Syrian Ministry of Defense)

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The General Director of the General Administration at the Ministry of Defense of the Syrian government, Major General Ahmad Suleiman, announced decisions related to mandatory, reserve, and voluntary military service.

During an interview with the Syrian Alikhbaria channel on Wednesday, June 26, Suleiman stated that the ministry has scheduled a timeline for reserve service consisting of three stages. Starting from July 1 and continuing until the end of the current year, it will discharge all those who have completed six years of service by the end of this June.

He added that those who have completed five and a half years by the end of August will also be discharged, while those who have completed five years by the end of October will be discharged as well.

By the end of the current year, those who have served four and a half years in reserve service will be discharged, with this phase being evaluated before entering the next stage, according to Major General Ahmad Suleiman.

Second phase

According to Suleiman, the second phase of the plan will begin next year. It aims to discharge those who have completed four years by the end of January 2025, while those who have completed three and a half years by the end of February 2025 will also be discharged.

By the end of June 2025, those who have served three years by the end of March 2025 will be discharged, and those who have served two and a half years by the end of April will be discharged on August 31, 2025. Those who have served two years in reserve service by the end of May will be discharged at the end of October 2025.

Third phase

Major General Suleiman noted during his interview with Alikhbaria that after evaluating the second phase, the maximum duration of reserve service will be only two years during the third phase. He pointed out that reserve service will be considered based on age and the number of years of service.

He added that the duration of reserve service in the three phases can be adjusted, either increased or decreased, depending on enrollment rates. He stated that tens of thousands of soldiers will be discharged by the end of the current year, and a similar number will be discharged next year while maintaining combat readiness.

Towards a “modern army”

Major General Ahmad Suleiman explained that the announced decisions were approved and will be implemented gradually to achieve a “modern army” that relies on volunteers through new volunteer contracts. Those who complete five-year volunteer contracts and do not wish to continue will be discharged.

According to Suleiman, a discharged volunteer is not called back to reserves or retained, and cannot be called up for reserves until five years after their discharge.

He pointed out that a five-year volunteer is called to reserve service for one continuous or intermittent year and is exempted from mandatory service. A ten-year volunteer is exempted from reserve service entirely.

Major General Suleiman indicated that a ready study is in place, and a legislative decree regarding payment instead of service for those aged 38 with a specific service duration will be issued later, instead of the current age of 40.

He added that the same applies to obligatory service for those with a disability (fixed services), allowing them to pay instead of serving if they do not wish to fulfill this service. He clarified that the “concept of mandatory service will change due to development and reliance on volunteers.”

Twelve years of war have led to the erosion of the military institution of the Syrian regime amid a long campaign it launched in 2011 to crush Syrian protests, which gradually turned into military confrontations with militant and semi-militant groups, including opposition factions and entities from outside Syria that declared hostilities against both the regime and the opposition, such as the Islamic State organization.

With the cooling of combat fronts initiated by influential international and regional parties in the Syrian file, Russia started training units of the Syrian Army in advanced war tactics, attempting to create what the Russian Ministry of Defense previously called “modern aerial forces.”

Recently, the regime issued a series of decisions related to the military institution. General Ahmad Suleiman, during an interview with Alikhbaria, mentioned that it aims to establish a “modern professional army” by decision of Bashar al-Assad.

Discharge orders over a year

Since last year till now, the regime has issued several administrative decisions concerning reserve service:

On August 16, 2023, an administrative order was issued to end the recall and retention of specific categories of military personnel.

On the 27th of the same month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued another order ending the recall and retention of reserve officers and student reserve officers under specific categories.

Since the beginning of this year, two administrative orders have been issued. The first, on April 27, ended the recall and retention of categories of military personnel starting from the beginning of June this year. The second is the most recent order announced by SANA a few days ago.

In an interview conducted by the official al-Suriya channel with Deputy Director of the Human Resources Department in the regime’s forces, Major General Hussein Kouro, in August 2023, he said that conscripted officers in the ranks of the army are not included in the retention mechanism as they perform mandatory service and are discharged directly.

At that time, he added that the general command had not issued any recall orders for discharged conscripted officers to join reserve service.

According to Kouro, the administrative order in August 2023 was a continuation of a similar one issued about a year earlier to include conscripted officers not covered by the previous order issued in 2022.

He pointed out that the decision was not comprehensive, and the general command of the regime’s army will issue similar administrative orders to include other batches of conscripted officers.

 

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