Military & Security forces Workshop Summary Report

Workshop: Military Reform and the Challenges of Building a National army
Team Leader: Major General Mohammed Al-Haj Ali
Reporter: Dr. Hassan Joubran
Istanbul, Turkey
October 30, 2012


At the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies’s conference, “Managing the Transition in Syria: Challenges and a Vision for the Future,” a group of Syrian experts met under the leadership of Major General Mohammed Al-Haj Ali to discuss military reform and the challenges of building a national army in post-Assad Syria.

The Syrian Revolution initially adopted a peaceful approach to the overthrow of the Assad regime, but because of President Bashar al-Assad’s rejection of any political compromise and insistence on destroying the country, Syrians now believe that the liberation of Syria will come only through the noble sacrifices of the Syrian people.Therefore, the revolution has been forced to rely on the Free Syrian Army to carry out its primary goal of regime change.

Significant progress has been made by the Free Syrian Army in many of the provinces of Syria. This workshop convened for the sake of preserving those gains and for considering how best to support the FSA in its current state, hasten an end to the armed phase of the Syrian revolution, and transform the elements of the FSA (and current Syrian security forces) into a national army capable of defending Syria and its citizens during the post-Assad transition.

The workshop identified a number of major goals for the future national army of liberated Syria:
1. Protect Syrian citizens from external and internal threats
2. Build trust between the national army and Syrian society by keeping the military under civilian authority and away from politics and ideology.
3. Defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and protect the constitution and the law.
4. Preserve the institution of the army and build a modern national army for all Syrians.

Workshop participants also concluded the following:
Challenges and shortcomings of the status quo:
The lack of financial support for the Free Army means it lacks the deterrent capabilities it needs to bring a decisive end to the Asad regime.
Haphazard private donations from abroad serve foreign agendas and often buy political loyalty, which may cause clashes between rival militias. An organizing body is needed to control the flow of funds to the Free Syrian Army.
The emergence of some criminal militias that claim affiliation to the Free Army and the inability of the FSA to deter their illicit activity.
The absence of a mechanism to control the distribution of arms to militias.
The lack of accountability for some rebel leaders. The lack of civilian oversight for local militias.
Poor communication between Free Army officers present in the field and armed battalions in the field causing difficulty in logistical and tactical coordination.

Positive steps to be taken immediately:
1. Financial support with logistics and advanced weapons.
2. The formation of a central command to be the only institution responsible for armed action in Syria and the sole recipient of all forms of military support.
3. The development of integrated structural hierarchy of the FSA for control of its numbers, command, formations, and functions.
4. Formation of military security agency to audit the work of militants and hold human rights violators accountable for their actions in the field.
5. Call for a general conference for the formation of a unified command of the national army
6. Work on providing a “safe zone” by all available means.
7. Invite all army defectors currently in refugees camps or outside the country to participate in the armed struggle and the establishment of the new national army.

Military reform in the context of the fall of the regime:

• Chaos, lack of security.
• Secession of areas of the country – Syria must remain united.
• The possibility of external intervention or invasion.
• Absence of leading cadres of army, police, and security forces.
• Vandalism and looting of government institutions
• The emergence of militias unwilling to fall under the command of the new government.

Recommended action
a. Impose order and security.
b. Secure public and private property; prevent vandalism and theft.
c. Secure the remaining storage facilities of heavy and non-traditional weapons.
d. Collect weapons from regime forces and the Shabiha.
e. Arrest the killers and perpetrators of crimes against the Syrian people.
f. Prevent reprisals and revenge against the perpetrators of the massacres and killings. Bring perpetrators to specialized courts. Prevent sectarian strife.
g. Prevent the escape of regime soldiers and the perpetrators of crimes through controlling the Syrian land border, airports and sea ports.
h. Dissolve all armed political organizations set up by the former regime.
i. Dissolve the security services, collect its weapons, and arrest all of its leaders who have committed crimes against the Syrian people.
j. Develop a mechanism supervised by the Ministry of Defense in the transitional government to deal with armed rebels and collect weapons from all armed battalions.
k. Allow interested former rebels to join the military or the police.
l. Assist civilians-turned-fighter with reintegration in civilian life.
m. Work to complete the construction of a national army composed of defected Syrian army troops, former revolutionaries, and the remnants of the army not complicit in crimes against the Syrian people.
n. Restructure the Ministry of Defense. It should have a civilian minister.


Specific recommendations regarding a new national civilian police force:
• Invite all police officers to join their units and places of work.
• Seize control of the central secretariat of civil affairs in Damascus and conduct investigation in the case of suspected theft.
• Seize the civil status records and its branches in the provinces.
• Control the border ports, land, sea and air in coordination with the armed battalions.
• Control the penal and correctional institutions in the state.
• Protect the real estate registry and seize all official documents.
• Control of the migration and passports database.
• Ensure the maintenance of security and public order in the country and strengthen the security presence wherever necessary.
• Guard official establishments, especially banks, museums, and public services.


Recommendations regarding intelligence officers and agents:
• Dissolve all the security services
• Order defected intelligence officers and agents to seize databases and records and ensure restrictions are available at every security point.
• Ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice in fair courts
• Work on the formation of the National Security Department as an alternative to the former security services.