RFS met with the commander of the FSA’s Jaish Al-Thani, Captain Mohammed Khaled Khleif, to talk about the formation of the faction, and its main objectives, and the power it holds, and the number of its fighters. The following conversation took place:
Q: Firstly Captain, tell us about Jaish Al-Thani, how was it formed? Its objectives? And its composition?
A: Jaish Al-Thani, is a revolutionary faction, which was formed for the revolution, and its fighters are revolutionary veterans, who defended the Syrian people. The name “ Jaish Al-Thani” was given approximately a year ago, and is comprised of Division 46, Division 312, and Division 314.
Our objectives are toppling the Assad regime, in all its symbols and aspects, and to end tyranny and oppression. Also, remove all Iranian terrorist militias from the Syrian territory, and build a civilized state which supports liberties, and includes equal rights for all Syrians. Additionally, we are working on opening dialogue with the rest of the FSA factions in Syria to form a unified army, to defend the Syrian people, and maintain safety in all Syrian territory.
Q: What are the areas in which Jaish Al-Thani is mostly present in?
A: Jaish Al-Thani is deployed in northern Syria, and is most prominently present in southern rural Idlib, northern and western rural Hama, in addition to some presence in Lattakia, in Jabal Al-Turkmen, and Jabal Al-Akrad.
Q: What is the number of fighters in Jaish Al-Thani? And the power it holds?
A: There are approximately 1500 fighters in Jaish Al-Thani. The fighters have exceptionally strong will-power, are disciplined and committed to their military orders. They undergo frequent military trainings, and are qualified combatants, which is evident when they fight their battles, in both offense and defense positions. There are also 300 fighters within the army who are specialised in fighting Daesh in the north.
Q: According to some sources, Jaish Al-Thani was formerly known as Jaish Al-Tahreer, can you please tell us about how it got its name, and are you still affiliated with Jaish Al-Tahreer?
A: Basically, Jaish Al-Tahreer was formed as a result of the integration of 5 factions, and they are Division 46, Division 312, Division 314, Jabhat Al-Sham, and the 9th brigade. This unification held for five months, but because of internal conflicts within Tahreer, there was a secession and the army was dissolved into two entities, the first being Jaish Al-Thani, and the other Jaish Al-Nukhbeh.
Q: What is your stand towards Daesh? And what is the extent of your relationship with the other factions?
A: We have participated in battles against Daesh in Azaz, up until Al-Bab was liberated by Jaish Al-Tahreer (formerly) who is now known as Brigade 115. Our relationship with other factions is of a brotherly nature, and we share the same objectives and outlooks.
Q: What is your stand on the internal fighting between factions in the liberated areas?
A: In my opinion, internal fighting will only weaken the revolution, which started out peacefully, and was compelled to become armed only to defend helpless civilians.
Q: What is the ideology adopted by Jaish Al-Thani, regarding civilians and steering them clear from military operations? And how do you work on protecting civilians?
A: The objective of Jaish Al-Thani, is to form a military entity that is unified and disciplined, committed to its leadership in war and peace, and to lead its battles in areas far from civilian presence and entities. We also aspire to deploy a civic police force, inside those civilian areas to ensure safety there.
Q: What are the most important accomplishments of Jaish Al-Thani?
A: Jaish Al-Thani was always part of the FSA, ever since its formation, and its name was changed several times, depending on who was leading in the field, and many of those commanders were killed, while others are still continuing to lead and fight. Jaish Al-Thani participated in battles on several fronts, most recently those in Aleppo, in Mallah, Khaldiyeh, Sheikh Maqsoud, Khan Touman and Al-Tamoura, and also in Jabal Al-Turkmen and Jabal Al-Akrad, and northern rural Hama, where it present until this very moment.
Q: Many factions participated in the Astana talks, yet many others refused to participate, but the talks resulted in the “De-escalation zones” agreement. What do you think of this agreement? And why? And do you support such conferences, whether in Astana or in Geneva?
A: We support any solution or proposition that might alleviate the suffering of Syrians, and fulfill their wishes for freedom and a good life. We trust the Geneva talks, and we perceive it positively, especially that the attendees represent many actors from the international community, who are opting to end the war in Syria. We have our reservations against the Astana talks, but it is also a good opportunity to stop the bombardment and atrocities committed by the regime.
Q: The regime and its militias continue to commit violations and atrocities, are you prepared to lead new battles?
A: Since the start of the revolution, we have taken on the position of defense to block the regime and its sectarian militias from advancing. We are always prepared, at all times and in all situations to defend the revolution and its principles, until Syrians are granted their wishes, in line with what is compatible with international laws and norms, of course.
Q: How does Jaish Al-Thani see the future in Syria?
A: We see Syria as a democratic unified state, where freedom and justice prevails, including for minorities, and the spectrum of the Syrian society is represented in the government.
Q: A few days ago, the Syrian National Coalition had requested from some large military factions to name who they wish to represent them politically at the SNC. Did the SNC contact you? And what was your response?
A: The SNC contacted us, and we told them that we are prepared to work and to coordinate at the political and military level, and that we will cooperate with everyone, within a team to fulfill our people’s wishes.
Q: Do you have a message you wish to relay to the FSA factions?
A: Our message to all FSA factions, is to call for one unified military body, committed to a specific hierarchy, and to present a trusted and suitable political figure to replace Assad, to fulfill the ambitions of Syrians, and help them develop and prosper.