Syrian Democratic Forces military councils

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has many military councils for local security and defense, each being accountable to the civil council of the area they operate in.[1]

In 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces established four military councils (three west of the Euphrates) in order to facilitate and conduct military operations, the Manbij Military Council, the al-Bab Military Council, the Jarabulus Military Council, and the Deir ez-Zor Military Council.

In 2017, the Idlib Military Council was founded in an attempt to gain influence in Idlib Governorate, much of which is controlled by Turkish-backed opposition groups.[2]

In 2019, the SDF started to form new military councils in order to both decentralize the SDF, and to unify the military and security forces in the region.[1] As of June 2019, the military councils formed during this decentralization are the Kobanî Military Council, the Tal Abyad Military Council, the Tabqa Military Council, the al-Hawl Military Council, the Qamishli Military Counci, the Raqqa Military Council, the Serê Kaniyê Military Council, the Derik Military Council, the Hasakah Military Council, and the Amuda Military Council.


Manbij Military Council
مجلس منبج العسكري
Participant in Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Manbij Military Council
Active2 April 2016 – present
  • Adnan Abu-Amjad  (military council top commander, 2016–17)
  • Muhammad Mustafa Ali (WIA) ("Abu Adel", military council top commander since 2017)[6][7]
  • Faisal Saadoun ("Abu Layla") (DOW)
  • Shervan Derwish (spokesperson)
  • Dilsuz Hashme[8]
  • Ibrahim Semho (Euphrates Liberation Brigade)[8]
  • Abu Jassim
  • Abu Khalaf
  • Ahmad Arsh[5] (Manbij Revolutionaries Battalion)
  • Ibrahim al-Banawi
HeadquartersTishrin Dam (pre-offensive)
Manbij (post-offensive)
Area of operationsAleppo, Raqqa, Hasaka, and Deir ez-Zor governorates, Syria
Battles and war(s)
WebsiteOfficial website

The Manbij Military Council (MMC) is a coalition established by several groups in the SDF, the Northern Sun Battalion and the Seljuk Brigade, on 2 April 2016 at the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates. The military council aimed to capture the city of Manbij across the river and many of the council members are local fighters from the surrounding areas.


The Manbij offensive has included the Manbij Military Council, US special operations forces, and minimal YPG and YPJ involvement assisted by US-led coalition airstrikes. The SDF fighters are mostly Arabs. During the offensive, an SDF fighter gave his perspective as "we have Arabs, Kurds, nobody knows how many exactly, we all work under the SDF-forces".[10]

On 5 April 2016, a civilian council was formed in the town of Sarrin by individuals originally from Manbij who had fled when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over. The council consists of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Circassians,[11] and was created to administer Manbij after its capture.[12]

The commander of the Manbij Military Council, Abu Layla, died of wounds he suffered from gunshots in the Manbij front against the Islamic State. He was succeeded by Muhammad Mustafa ("Abu Adel").

On 19 August 2016, the Manbij Military Council issued a statement which announced that it was taking over the security of Manbij city center and villages from the YPG and YPJ, though some of their fighters remained to continue to provide training and other support duties.[13][14]

In early November 2016, a 'battalion' from the Sham Legion defected and joined the MMC.

On 17 November 2016, the rest of the YPG and YPJ fighters left Manbij, leaving the security of the area and training of troops fully to the council.[15]

On 2 March 2017, the Manbij Military Council handed over a vast expanse of territory west of Manbij to the Syrian Army to create a buffer zone between the SDF and Turkish-backed rebels. They released a statement saying that "Defending the civilians and protecting them from the adverse impact of the war, ensuring the security of Manbij and frustrating the invasion plans of the Turkish army against Syrian soil are the goals we have taken for all the peoples living on the lands of Syria,"[16] and that

To reach these objectives [the defense of Manbij] we have transferred, after reaching a new alliance with Russia, the defence of the line to the west of Manbij – where the villages between us and the gang groups [FSA, Ahrar al-Sham] affiliated to the Turkish army are – to Syrian state forces."[17]


The SDF ceded this territory west of Manbij because it is clear that there are limits to the extent that the United States will intervene on behalf of the SDF's interests west of the Euphrates.[16]

On 17 April 2017, it was announced that 200 fighters from the council would participate in the Battle of Tabqa to take al-Thawra, part of the larger Raqqa campaign.[9] On 24 May 2017, an additional 2,200 fighters were sent for the fourth phase of the campaign.

The Manbij Military Council fought in the Battle of Raqqa since 6 June 2017. On 29 August, Adnan Abu Amjad, general commander of the Manbij Military Council, was killed in action during the battle.[18]

On 17 September 2017, Muhammad Mustafa Ali, also known by his nom de guerre "Abu Adel", was appointed the general commander of the Manbij Military Council as the successor of Adnan Abu Amjad.[6][19] On 5 November 2017, Abu Adel was wounded by an IED of Harakat al-Qiyam, a rebel group in northern Syria.[7]

On 27 November 2017, the Martyr Adnan Abu Amjad Regiment, consisting of 250 fighters was established, and joined the MMC.


Al-Bab Military Council
مجلس الباب العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Flag of the al-Bab Military Council
Active14 August 2016 – present
  • Al-Bab Revolutionary Front
  • Qebasin Martyrs Brigade
  • Army of Revolutionaries (elements)
  • Al-Bab Countryside Martyrs Battalion
  • Free Arima Battalion
  • Martyr Silo al-Rai Brigade
  • Kieba Martyrs Brigade
  • Female Battalion
LeadersJamal Abu Juma
Area of operationsManbij District and eastern al-Bab District
AlliesUnited States
Battles and war(s)

The al-Bab Military Council (BMC) is an ethnically mixed force, consisting of Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen militias from northern Aleppo Governorate. The council currently maintains a presence in several villages west of Manbij, though its stated goal is to capture al-Bab and surrounding areas from Turkey and its allies.


The al-Bab Military Council was formed on 14 August 2016 by seven small SDF-affiliated factions with the goal of capturing the city of al-Bab, west of Manbij and "a symbol of the revolution and the foundation for a democratic, free and plural Syria". The military council called for US support, and later Afrin-based SDF forces launched the an offensive in the countryside, west of al-Bab.[21][22] Amid the Battle of al-Bab and the wider Operation Euphrates Shield, the al-Bab Military Council fought alongside the YPG against ISIL and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) in an attempt to capture al-Bab before Turkey did.[23] The council and its allies were unable to reach the city, however, and al-Bab and its surroundings consequently became part of the Turkish occupation zone in northern Syria.[24] Since then, the al-Bab Military Council has declared on several occasions its intention to eventually "liberate" the region from the Turkish occupation.[25][26][27][28]

As clashes between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Turkish-backed forces increased in March 2017, the SDF made a deal with the Syrian government, and agreed to the posting of loyalist Syrian border guards in SDF-held areas to defuse tensions.[5][29] From that point onward, the al-Bab Military Council coordinated with these border guards to counter attacks by the TFSA.[29]

The group maintained a presence in several villages that bordered on Turkish-held territories, and repeatedly clashed with Turkish-backed forces, such as in June 2018.[30]

After the village of Arima was formally placed under Syrian Army control on 25 December 2018 following a deal between the SDF and the Syrian government,[31][32] the al-Bab Military Council (along with the Manbij Military Council, and Kurdish Front) was one of the SDF units which maintained a presence in the village.[33] In early January 2019, several clashes took place between Turkish-backed forces and the al-Bab Military Council near Arima.[34][35] In response, fighters of the council led by their commander Jamal Abu Juma conducted joint patrols with Russian Armed Forces soldiers in the area where the joint-SDF-Syrian Army zone bordered on Turkish-held territories.[36][37][38] Nevertheless, sporadic fighting continued between the military council and Turkish-backed forces.[39]


The al-Bab Military Council initially consisted of seven militias, namely two Arab units (Al-Bab Revolutionary Front, Free Arima Battalion), two Kurdish groups (Qebasin Martyrs Brigade, Kieba Martyrs Brigade), one Turkmen militia (Seljuq Brigade), and two ethnically mixed units (Al-Bab Countryside Martyrs Battalion, Martyr Silo al-Rai Brigade).[23][40]

On 31 October 2016, an all-female battalion was established within the al-Bab Military Council.[41] This unit started to recruit women among the refugees from al-Bab, especially those who had suffered at the hands of ISIL.[41][42][43]

The military council's general commander is Jamal Abu Juma[25][44] (Kurdish: "Cemal Ebu Cuma").[36] By February 2019, there had been 15 assassination attempts on him.[45]


Jarabulus Military Council
مجلس جرابلس العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Jarablus Military Council
ActiveAugust 2016 – present
  • Abdel Sattar al-Jader [47]
  • Col. Ali Hijo[48]
  • Massoud Allo
  • Muhammad Ahmed[49]
  • Ahmed al-Jader[49]
Area of operationsManbij District, Aleppo Governorate
Battles and war(s)

The Jarabulus Military Council is an SDF coalition in the Shahba Region formed by local fighters from the city of Jarabulus and the surrounding areas, who had fled from ISIL.[50]

Abdel Sattar al-Jader, the initial leader of the Jarabulus Military Council and the commander of the Euphrates Jarabulus Brigades, was assassinated just prior to the Turkish military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and the SDF have accused Turkish military intelligence of organizing the assassination.[47]

The Jarabulus Military Council took part in the resistance against the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria, attacking Turkish-backed forces in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo.[51]

Deir ez-Zor

Deir ez-Zor Military Council
مجلس دير الزور العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council
Active8 December 2016 – present
Group(s)Gathering of al-Baggara Youth[52]
Area of operations
Size1,300+ (self claim, Feb. 2017)[60]
4,000 (self claim, Aug. 2017)[61]
AlliesElite Forces
Al-Sanadid Forces
People's Protection Units
Martyr Amara Arab Women's Battalion[62]
Battles and war(s)

On 8 December 2016 the Deir ez-Zor Military Council was created during a SDF conference in Hasaka. The members consist of remnants of the former armed rebel council of the same name, expelled from the city by the Islamic State in 2014, having joined the SDF in November 2016.[63][64] However, the pro-opposition Deir ez-Zor 24 organization denied that the military council's commander, known as Abu Khawla, was a commander in any FSA group.[65]

On 11 December, the council stated that after completing the second phase of the Northern Raqqa offensive they will redirect their focus to Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[55]

On 25 August 2017, 800 fighters left the Elite Forces and was fully integrated into the ranks of the SDF and its Deir ez-Zor Military Council. The fighters accused the Elite Forces of corruption. These forces consisted of 7 units of al-Baggara and al-Shaitat tribal fighters stationed in the eastern Raqqa and southern Hasaka countrysides,[61][66] among them the Gathering of al-Baggara Youth, led by Yasser al-Dahla[57]

On 28 September 2017, Yasser al-Dahla was arrested by SDF military police, which accused Dahla of not effectively participating in the SDF's Deir ez-Zor offensive and the "lack of military discipline". The Gathering of al-Baggara Youth denied these charges, and accused the Deir ez-Zor Military Council of denying Euphrates Shield fighters who defected to the SDF to join the Gathering. Dahla reportedly threatened to cease his group's participation in the Deir ez-Zor offensive.[57] Some time after that incident, Yasser al-Dahla was released. On 9 December 2017, he denied reports that he defected to government forces, while acknowledging the disputes between him and other SDF commanders.[56]

The Deir ez-Zor Military Council clashed with Syrian pro-government forces during the Battle of Khasham,[67] while some fighters of the military council stated in late February 2018 that they wanted to aid the defense of Afrin Region against the Turkish military operation.[68]

On 20 September 2019, protests broke out in areas held by SDF in Deir ez-Zor calling for the withdrawal of Syrian government and Iranian-aligned forces from 7 kilometers of territory near Khasham, after threats from pro-government and Iranian backed forces in Deir ez-Zor such as the Baqir Brigade to attack SDF held areas in the region. In response to the protests, the council's field commander released a statement on behalf of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council to a tribal gathering, that they would fight pro-government and allied forces if they were to attack. At the same time another SDF spokesman denied that SDF was involved in organizing the protests but admitted that SDF took no action against them.[69][70]

On 27 September 2019, protests against the government continued, with protestors demanding that the government withdraw from the eastern banks of the Euphrates and hand it over to SDF, and for SDF's fighters to replace government forces in the area.[71]

On 29 October 2019, the CJTF-OIR coalition bombarded Syrian Army positions in Deir ez-Zor, reportedly in response to the Syrian military shelling SDF-held areas in Deir ez-Zor, following the coalition's bombings clashes were also reported between the Syrian army and SDF in the area during which a Syrian army tank was destroyed.[72]


Idlib Military Council
مجلس إدلب العسكري
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Logo of the Idlib Military Council
ActiveOctober 21, 2017 – Unknown
Group(s)Northern Democratic Brigade
LeadersAbu Ammar al-Idlibi
HeadquartersIdlib, Idlib Governorate
Area of operationsIdlib Governorate
AlliesPeople's Protection Units
Tahrir al-Sham
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army
National Front for Liberation
Battles and war(s)

The Idlib Military Council was proposed, and partially organized by the SDF in an attempt to gain influence in Idlib Governorate and counter Turkey and the Syrian Army in the region. It was reportedly established in late 2017, with an official formation video filmed in Idlib being released on 21 October 2017 claiming that the council seeks to "revive" the Syrian revolution and expand it into combating terrorism and foreign occupation. In the video the council also declared its willingness to fight Jabhat al-Nusra and rid Idlib from their presence, the speaker in the video also described the council's opposition to the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad and their support for the Syrian rebellion, though the council mostly disappeared thereafter.[2] In March 2018, however, the Idlib Military Council and other SDF units condemned the Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch against Afrin Canton and declared to help the YPG in defending the canton.[73][74]

The council is also openly linked with the Syrian Democratic Forces' component the Northern Democratic Brigade with the group's leader Abu Ammar al-Idlibi stating his group's ambitions to expand operations into the Idlib Governorate and eventually control it and expel Turkish forces as well as rival groups active in the area.[75]

Military councils formed in 2019


The Kobanî Military Council (‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşkerî Ya Kobanî[76]) was established on 16 June 2019, with Ismat Sheikh Hassan as its commander.[77]

Tal Abyad

The Tal Abyad Military Council (Arabic: مجلس تل أبيض العسكري, ‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşkerî A Girê Spî) was established on 17 June 2019, with Riyad Khamis al-Khalaf as its leader.[78] As a part of the SDF-US-Turkish buffer zone deal, the Tal Abyad Military Council filled positions left by the YPG in the Tal Abyad area, and has conducted joint patrols with the American military.[79][80]


The Tabqa Military Council (Arabic: مجلس الطبقة العسكري) was established on 18 June 2019, with the Council being headed by Mohammed Raouf.[81]


Tha al-Hawl Military Council (Arabic: المجلس العسكري لقطاع الهول, ‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşkerî Ya Eyaleta Holê) was founded on 19 June 2019.[82]


The Qamishli Military Council (‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşkerî A Qamişlo) was founded on 20 June 2019, with Piling Qamişlo being one of its co-presidents.[83]


The Raqqa Military Council (Arabic: مجلس الرقة العسكري) was founded on 21 June 2019, with Farhan al-Askar as its commander.[84]

Serê Kaniyê

Serê Kaniyê Military Council
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Serê Kaniyê Military Council
Active27 June 2019-Present
Opponent(s) Turkey
Syrian National Army
Battles and war(s)2019 Rojava offensive

The Serê Kaniyê Military Council (Arabic: مجلس سرﻱ كانییه العسكرﻱ, ‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşgerî Ya Waşûkanî) was founded on 27 June 2019.[85] As a part of the SDF-US-Turkish buffer zone deal, the Serê Kaniyê Military Council filled positions left by the YPG in the Serê Kaniyê area, and has conducted joint patrols with the American military on 4 September and 8 September 2019.[86][80]


The Derik Military Council (‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşkerî Ya Dêrikê) was founded on 30 June 2019, with Kurdistan Dêrik as one of its co-presidents.[87]


The Hasakah Military Council (‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşgerî A Hesekê) was formed on 4 July 2019.[88]


The Amuda Military Council (‹See Tfd›Kurdish: Meclisa Leşgerî A Amûdê, Arabic: مجلس عامودا العسكري) was founded on 4 July 2019, with Amed Amûdê as its commander.[89][90]


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Works cited

  • Heing, Bridey (2018). ISIS Brides. Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow Publishing. ISBN 978-0766095823.
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