Jane’s Report: About Half of Syria Rebels Are Jihadists

Secularists Are Miniscule Part of Overall Rebellion

A new report from defense analysts IHS Jane’s provided some of the first recent estimates of the size of Syria’s rebellion, and more importantly the groups that make it up.

They put the overall rebel fighters at 100,000 strong, but that is made up of some 1,000 different factions. Al-Qaeda directly commands the loyalty of around 10,000 of those fighters.

Another 30,000 to 35,000 of the rebels are “jihadists” from pro-al-Qaeda factions that aren’t explicitly run by the group, and still 30,000 more represent various Islamist factions of a somewhat more moderate character. What’s left is the secularist component, a pretty small minority in the grand scheme of things, made doubly so by the fact that the al-Qaeda run forces like Jabhat al-Nusra have been dramatically more formidable in fighting.

Jihadists have been the most active portion of the rebellion, attacking ethnic Kurds and religious minorities nationwide, including three more Alawite villages sacked today in Homs Province.

It is in this environment that the Syrian National Coalition’s new prime minister, Ahmad Tumeh, will be taking the helm. A moderate Islamist himself, Tumeh is calling for a confrontation of al-Qaeda and the other more jihadist factions in the rebellion. That may make the US happy, but its a fight that the SNC’s own faction seems unlikely to be able to win.

It’s also a fight al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri seems resigned to, warning his factions and those allied with them not to associate with the secularists or form serious alliances with them. In the past this was less a concern, but with the “rebellion” tearing itself apart at the seams, it seems the various factions will be committing more and more of their forces to fighting each other, rather than the Assad government.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.