Army of Conquest
|Army of Conquest|
جيش الفتح |
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
|Active||24 March 2015 – present|
|Area of operations||Syria|
|Battles and wars|
The alliance was formed in March 2015 under the supervision and coordination of Saudi cleric Dr Abdullah al-Muhaysini. It consists of Islamist rebel factions mainly active in the Idlib Governorate, with some factions active in the Hama and Latakia Governorates. In the course of the following months, it seized most of Idlib province. It is actively supported by Saudi Arabia.
In an October 2015 publication, the Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War considered Jaish al-Fatah as one of the "powerbrokers" in Idlib, Hama, Daraa and Quneitra provinces, though not in Damascus province, being primarily "anti-regime" and "anti-Hezbollah" but not necessarily "anti-ISIS".
At its founding, Jaish al-Fatah contained seven members, three of them—al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa—were directly connected to al-Qaeda or have a similar ideology. With Ahrar al-Sham being the largest group, al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham together were reported to represent 90 percent of the troops. Another prominent Islamist faction in the operations room was the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria-linked Sham Legion (Faylaq Al-Sham). Jaish al-Fatah collaborated with more moderate Free Syrian Army factions such as Knights of Justice Brigade.
Jaish al-Fatah declared its formation on 24 March 2015. On the same day, a pro-opposition source claimed that about fifty Syrian government soldiers defected to the new operations room. The Army of Conquest captured Idlib City on 28 March 2015. In the following months, they spearheaded an offensive that drove out government forces from almost all of Idlib Governorate. Following this success, additional branches of the Army of Conquest were established in other parts of Syria.
The Army of Conquest coalition was partially modelled upon the success of the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army, and in turn newer coalitions, like the Battle of Victory, were modelled on the Army of Conquest.
Expansion to other parts of Syria
In early May 2015, the Army of Conquest formed a new branch in Western Qalamoun, called Jaish al-Fatah - al-Qalamoun. On 1 October 2015, after defeats by pro-Assad forces, Jaish al-Fatah al-Qalamoun was replaced by an independent faction called Saraya Ahl al-Sham, which aims to unite all rebel factions in Western Qalamoun.
Also in June, the al-Nusra Front issued a statement calling on the opposition in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus to form a similar coalition, but this call was rejected by the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta, a grouping which includes the most prominent factions in the area.
In October 2015 Army of Conquest members al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham (also a member of the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta), along with other groups formed Jund al-Malahm, an operations room in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus, in direct competition with the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta operations room. Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, which is another military council member also joined this new operations room.
On 20 June, the Army of Conquest in the southern region was established and immediately took part in the campaign in Quneitra, the collation includes Ahrar al- Sham Movement, Jabhat al- Nusra, Fath al-Sham Coalition, Ihyaa al- Jihad Brigade, Mujhedi Nawa Gathering, Asoud al- Tahid Brigade, Ansar al- Haqa Brigade and the Islamic brigade of al- Omarein.
On July 2016, the Jaish Fateh al-Sham, formed from former Al-Nusra Front members, restructured the group further, and now starting to send propaganda to support their offensives across Aleppo.
On 23 October 2015, Jund al-Aqsa announced a split from Jaysh al-Fatah, reportedly due to disagreements with Ahrar al-Sham over the application of Islamic law in areas under their control. Following this development, there were unconfirmed reports that al-Nusra Front, in an act of solidarity with Jund al-Aqsa, left the coalition, or that Jund al-Aqsa would be rejoining Jaysh al-Fateh. In January 2016, the Sham Legion announced it was leaving the group, ostensibly to redeploy its forces to Aleppo, but also due to tensions with Jund al-Aqsa.
In May 2016, the Army of Conquest announced it was restructuring, ending ties with Jund al-Aqsa while readmitting the Sham Legion. It was also joined by the Turkistan Islamic Party, a jihadist group composed of Uyghurs from western China.
On 15 November, Liwa Ahrar Souriya left the Hamza Division having only joined in September, and joined Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, thus by extension, joining the Army of Conquest. Kata'ib Suyuf Al-Shahba & Jaysh al-Shamal also joined Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki.
- "News Update 3-25-15". Syria Direct. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
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- "Hoping to break into encircled east Aleppo, rebels surprise with attack from southwest". Syria Direct. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
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- "Jihadist coalition captures checkpoints around city of Idlib". Long War Journal. 27 March 2015.
- "Al Qaeda and allies form coalition to battle Syrian regime in Idlib". Long War Journal. 24 March 2015.
- Ryan Rifai (6 June 2015). "Syrian group claims control of Idlib province". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- Kim Sengupta (12 May 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria". The Independent.
- Jennifer Cafarella; Genevieve Casagrande (7 October 2015). "Syrian Opposition Guide" (PDF). Backgrounder. Institute for the Study of War: 3.
- "U.S. sanctions jihadist Syrian rebel group Jund al-Aqsa". Reuters. 20 September 2016.
- "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015.
Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham represent 90 per cent of the troops. The Saudis and Qataris are to provide funding for 40 per cent of the coalition’s needs
- "Syrian rebels fight Syrian army near Assad heartland". Newsweek. Reuters. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
As the biggest group in Army of Fatah, Ahrar al-Sham appears to hold the key to preventing infighting.
- "'Army of Conquest' rebel alliance pressures Syria regime". Daily Mail. AFP. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
The coalition, whose formation was announced in March, comprises a range of mostly jihadist and Islamist groups, the most prominent being Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and the powerful Islamist Ahrar al-Sham [...] Other important members include Faylaq al-Sham, a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood-linked battalions, and Jund al-Aqsa, a small jihadist group.
- "Syrian Insurgent gains expose Assad Weaknesses" AP sourced article in The New York Times. "Muayad Zurayk, an activist in Idlib city, attributed the opposition's success in the province to the joint operations room [...] "All operations stemming from the coordinated command center are done in the name of Jaish al-Fatah," he said, referring to the unified command. "It is forbidden to mention the name of any faction.""
- "Qaeda, allies seize Syria's Idlib city in blow to regime". AFP. 28 March 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
- Pollard, Ruth (9 May 2015). "New coalition shakes Syria's Assad regime". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
The model is now being copied in areas such as the Qalamoun – the mountain ranges between Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and Syria
- "In Syria, Support for Rebel Unity Carries Risks". Stratfor. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
With the Southern Front success as a model, rebel backers then sought to deploy similar methods in the north.
- Jocelyn, Thomas (23 April 2015). "Al Nusrah Front, allies launch new offensives against Syrian regime". Long War Journal.
- "Syria rebels form new Qalamoun coalition". NOW. 1 October 2015.
- Yousef, Sarbaz (11 June 2015). "Nusra demands Syrian rebels to unite against Assad in Damascus". ARA News. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
- sohranas. "The Unified Military Command of the Eastern Ghouta refuses the invitation of Jabhat al- Nusra to establish "al- Fateh Army in the Ghouta" calling it to disband its judicial councils and join "the Unified Command"". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
- "فصائل سورية تشكل فرعا لجيش الفتح بالمنطقة الجنوبية".
- sohranas. "Some factions establish "al- Fateh Army" in the south of Syria". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "Charles Lister on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "Al Qaeda front group claims success in key Syrian town". Long War Journal. 5 November 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
- "Reports: Al-Nusra Front leaves Jaish al-Fatah coalition in Syria". Middle East Eye.
- Sam Heller (9 November 2015). "The End of the Army of Conquest? Syrian Rebel Alliance Shows Cracks". Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Syrian rebel group says exits Islamist alliance to refocus fight". Reuters. 3 January 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2016.