Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra – better known as MaT – is still a Vetted Syrian Opposition force and remains at the At Tanf base, despite claims that it has joined a new operations room to fight in Deir Ezzor, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led Coalition said on Friday.
The spokesperson told The Defence Post that “the MaT is still a VSO force and will remain at At Tanf and continue working with Coalition forces to train for future counter-ISIS operations and to assist with securing the tri-border area.”
A statement published last week said MaT and four other groups, including Jaysh Usud Al-Sharqiya – previously a VSO force that left the programme after it refused to solely focus on fighting Islamic State – had joined together in a new military operations room to battle in the Deir Ezzor region.
— كودي روش (@badly_xeroxed) September 23, 2017
The Syrian National Coalition, a group which represents the Free Syrian Army, reported the creation of the operations room and a joint political committee by the five largest FSA groups in eastern Syria to deal with “the latest developments” in Deir Ezzor province.
The operations room is to be commanded by Ahmed Jadiea, and the political committee led by Talas Salama.
The spokesperson for the Eastern Region Conglomerate, Hammad al-Asaad, told Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that it would form the nucleus of a new national army.
Confirmation of the creation of a new FSA operations room including MaT calls into question whether the group is exclusively focused on fighting ISIS, a pre-requisite for U.S. train-and-equip support.
Col. Ryan Dillon, the Coalition spokesperson, tweeted on September 19 that MaT continued to prepare for “counter-ISIS ops” after it was reported that the Al Zaqaf outpost near At Tanf had been destroyed by a Coalition airstrike.
MaT has since published video showing its fighter being trained to use TOW missiles:
أبطال جيش مغاوير الثورة والتدريبات التي يقومون بها. pic.twitter.com/xPKhVyYzIf
— مغاوير الثورة (@MaghaweirThowra) September 26, 2017
Meanwhile, one of the founders of the Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, tweeted that the FSA needs to give up conventional warfare and wage a guerilla war against President Assad and his allies.
Al-Asaad and other defectors from the Syrian army declared the establishment of the FSA on July 29, 2011. He took military command of the new organisation, but was replaced in December 2012 by Salam Idris.