NIGHTWATCH: Syria-Saudi Arabia – New “Fighting Force” Funded by Saudis, Trained by Pakistanis

04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, Peace Intelligence

Syria-Saudi Arabia: Two western news services reported this week that Saudi Arabia is preparing to finance the training and arming of a new Syrian non-jihadi rebel force. The force is to be built around the Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) which was created in September 2013 by a merger of 43 fighting groups.

According to the news services, Saudi Arabia reportedly has hired Pakistan to help train the re-purposed force. It supposedly would start as two brigades and would be supplied through Jordan. It would not be jihadist, but also would not be a secular force.

Comment: If this information is accurate, it implies that the Saudis judge the fighting will go one for two more years because that is about how long it would take to develop an effective fighting force. By that time, the Syrian government is likely to have stabilized the security situation or, less likely, to have fallen to the jihadists.

The amount of time, energy and multi-national coordination required in this effort, with highly uncertain prospects for a return on the investment, plus the direct involvement of Jordan as pivotal to the logistics raise suspicions that this is not a serious initiative. Rather it looks like a perception management stratagem to prompt more US assistance, if not intervention.