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10 March 2016


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"He declined promotion from colonel to brigadier general a year or so ago in order to remain with his men."
This sure explains why the SAA and allies are winning.


Most of the media Arabic references to the Tiger Forces refer to them as a Liwa - a brigade, rather than a division.
There are also some references to the Cheetah Forces (Al-Fuhud) fighting alongside the Tiger Forces.

The Arabic Wiki entry on the Battle of al-Ghab Plain in July 2015 places the Tiger Forces on a level with other brigades. It lists the following Syrian government army units as constituents in that battle:

87 Brigade
155 Brigade
Tiger Forces
Force 54 Special Forces
106 Brigade Republican Guard
40 Mechanised Brigade (Tanks)
Desert Hawks
Cheetah Forces

That gives me the impression that the Tigers are a brigade at best.

If that is the case then it will be hard IMO to get any further with an order of battle for the Tiger Forces. Also, I suspect that within each of these "brigades" above they are strengthened and given a stiff backbone with the insertion of Iranian and Hezbullah commanders and fighters.

I get the idea that MG Hassan is a PR campaign to give heart and hope to the pro-government population and to lift the morale of the Syrians in the army.



"I suspect that within each of these "brigades" above they are strengthened and given a stiff backbone with the insertion of Iranian and Hizbullah commanders and fighters." Do you have any basis for your suspicion? I see lots of references to the Iranians and Hizbullah being employed as separate units often brigaded with Syrian units. I don't see evidence of Iranian and Hizbullah commanders or fillers in SAA units pl



To my best knowledge the Iranians or Hizbullah do not command and are not deeply involved in Syrian regular forces. There are Iranian (IRGC) leaders with some external forces (Afghans, Iraqi). There are advisers and trainers for the half-civilian Self Defense Forces (SDF). Russians are only deployed where there is special Russian technology involved. All are involved in the central command for coordination and battle planning.

The Tigers are a brigade sized formation with sometimes additional attachments from the SDF or other troops. I think they are overused. After Kuweiris they should have had more rest. Instead they went nearly straight to Palmyra.



I agree that they are overused. pl


Republican Guards? Maybe they get the best equipment, training, etc.



They are not of the Republican Guard. I would think that they probably have a high priority for new equipment. Why not? pl


Col Lang and SST readers,

I have been trying to put together an interactive visualization of the last months of Syrian war, which mean that, whether I liked to or not, I had to deal with the problem of exactly what the Tiger Forces are. What little I have found so far:

* "Team 3" and "Team 6" appear to be the Tiger Forces' two maneuver units, with the capability of being deployed independently to different parts of the front (see https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/tiger-forces-deploy-to-southeast-aleppo-amid-isil-assault-on-khanasser/). Each seems to consist of a battalion (regiment?) of mechanized infantry with an attached tank company (battalion?).

* The reporting sometimes seems to hint at sub-units such as "Cheetah Forces of the Tiger Force"--I have not found these to be meaningful so far.

* As far as I can tell, they do *not* have attached associated militia assets on a permanent basis. The NDF/SSNP/Kataeb al Baath units they are reported as operating with appear usually to be ones that were already active locally. Your description above of them as a "fire brigade" fits exactly.

* Ditto Hezbollah or IRGC units. They have fought alongside Hezbollah in the the Kuweires area, but do not appear to have even the informal attachment you see between the 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah infantry to the SW of Aleppo.

* The Tiger Forces are independent of the other two elite (i.e., capable of offensive operations) organizations of the regime, the Republican Guard and the 4th Mechanized Division.

* Much more obscure is the question of what links if any they have may have with the units of the 14th and 15th Special Forces divisions that appear on the wiki link Col Lang attached above. This article (http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/colonel-suheil-al-hassan-tiger-forces/) would suggest that the Tiger Forces were created "out of" Special Forces personnel, but are now an autonomous organization. (Incidentally, I have not seen reports of SAA Special Forces units operating above battalion, so it may be that a large proportion of its offensive capability was simply folded into the Tiger Forces).

I hope the above has been minimally helpful, at least establishing a few things the Tiger Forces are not. Below I include some links that have helped me trying to understand the current orbat and deployment of the SAA.

https://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/3t2oeh/location_and_structure_of_elite_syrian_units/ [NB, regular army brigade numbers should be taken with caution unless one sees them mentioned repeatedly in battlefield reports--the existence/parent-unit of some are questionable.]

[Sunni units in 4th Mechanized brigades]: https://twitter.com/leithfadel/status/628592248628867072

[loose pairing between 4th Mechanized and Hezbollah infantry] https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/hezbollah-syrian-army-advance-to-abu-rayal-in-southern-aleppo-as-more-iraqi-paramilitary-arrive/

[SSNP militia] http://shellshocked-blog.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-rise-of-ssnp-militia-sign-of.html

[old, but still useful on SAA units in Deir Ezzor, including Druze 104th Brigade brigade of Republican Guard] http://spioenkop.blogspot.com/2014/12/battlefront-syria-deir-ez-zor.html


Any idea what they do for indirect fire support, i.e., artillery? pl


I understood that Team 6 is Cheetah force


Is the geographic disposition of the Tiger Forces an indicator of the priority SAA gives to a particular front?


I'm afraid that, organizationally, that's a good question for the entirety of the current pro-government forces.

My *impression* is that (with the possible exception of the 4th Mechanized Division) none of the first-line Syrian units have indirect fire assets heavier than what would be organic for mechanized units of their size. However, first-line units in some areas of the front clearly have powerful indirect fire support (see e.g. fairly recent clip from fighting near Thermal Plant East of Aleppo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgDn8SLrVLk) and these assets are presumably made up equal/older versions of Russian types in theater (see here, https://rusi.org/publication/rusi-defence-systems/detailing-russian-forces-syria for weapon types), but so far I have not been able to find any information about how they are organized (or even which nationality is firing what).

All I can add is that only first-line Syrian units seem to have access (or simple liaison capability) to these assets. Images and reports from areas where Nusra/ISIS forces staged successful counterattacks against militia forces (both NDF and Iraqi Shia) suggest that these last have very weak heavy weapons/above support, even in areas of the front we know such assets are present (eg SW Aleppo, where in November ground-holding militias were pushed back while 4th Mech was re-equipping with T-90s).

William Fitzgerald

Pat Lang,

You beat me to that question. Also, does Gabriel or anyone know if the SAA has self-propelled arty with a command relationship to its mobile units?



Col Lang,

Are opposition units/personnel permitted to surrender on the battlefield
in this war? Does the R+6 take prisoners? I have read about negotiated
truces/hudnas and about offers of amnesty to entire villages. I have
not seen what I consider to be "normal" casualty statistics which
would include KIAs, more WIAs and at least some POWs.Is it true that
"jihadis" just don't surrender; they fight to the death?

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96


Hassan sounds like he has a similar background to Assad's father. Didn't he start out life as an air force officer?

The Porkchop Express

Here is a video (produced by the Russians) that highlights the Suqur al Sahara brigades. May be of some utility? Given its similar mission in make up to the Tigers. I found their "aviation specialists" using commercial drones as part of the unit particularly ingenious.




I've toyed with that idea, with "Team 3" (the one that got redeployed to SE Aleppo) being the "Panther Forces" that one also sometimes sees mentioned. Might well be true--I'd be delighted to know if anyone has more information.



My guess is no, outside of Aleppo. (nb--my data collection complete for whole of Syria only till 1/1, cd have become clearer later). One of the two sub-units keeps popping up alternately in the hills north of Palmyra (http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.626428&lon=38.288727&z=12&m=b) and near the that section of the Itrhiyah-Khanasser road that ISIS keeps cutting (v roughly here, http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.576358&lon=37.654953&z=11&m=b), but as far as I've seen it's been fire-brigade duties, restoring the front after ISIS (it's usually ISIS) surprises militia units out of potentially critical locations.

More generally, and this is a very uneducated guess that results simply from having read hundreds of wire reports over the past months, I have a *suspicion* that reports about pushes to capture Palmyra or push from NE Hama straight to Raqqah are feints/maskirovka meant to draw attention away from Aleppo and Lattakia. I just notice a pattern of reports of elite units (but small ones) being deployed in those areas (a unit of Russian Marines was reported as being in command of a force in NE Hama), with the implication that something's brewing there, and in the end it's always some important chunk of Aleppo that ends up being the real target.

For example, you might remember Palmyra and or a push to Tabaqah/Raqqah cropping in the news in the past month or so, but, following this report (https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isis-abandons-hope-east-aleppo-syrian-army-captures-3-villages/) posted yesterday, it seems to me that the next actual anti-ISIS move might be a push northward from roughly here (http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.820319&lon=37.612038&z=12&m=b&permpoly=15652880) to here http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=36.097106&lon=37.939224&z=12&m=b&permpoly=15652880). I say "seems" purely because it has more of a "cauldron" flavor than the other two directions, with units East of Kuweires able to support that push. But I'll stop my uneducated guessing there.


William Fitzgerald,

Here's where old brigade designations can start to drive you insane. If you look at the OOB Col Lang posted above, you'll see that the 154th brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division (the one that's been active in SW Aleppo with Hezbollah infantry) is listed in 2011 as a self-propelled artillery. Now, however, it's equipped with T-90s (at least if this is the armor bde we've been seeing in the clips of the fighting), so...

I can't imagine the 4th Mechanized doesn't have some very substantial self-propelled artillery, but your guess about what/crewed-by-whom is as good as mine. My last data for Russian shipments from November, so anything you can get after that could supply a clue (to the "what", at least).


What are those yellow ribbons some of the soldiers wear on their shoulders for?

The Twisted Genius

William Fitzgerald,

I think you're asking if these units have organic artillery. I haven't seen any evidence of this. Perhaps they will move in that direction as the Russians have done to the local forces in Novorossiya. Those units are combined arms with a heavier slice of indirect fire support than what I remember from the US Army. Right now, I see a modern command and communications set up in these kind of Syrian units that can take advantage of intelligence and supporting fires, including air support. The ability to make full use of attached and supporting assets is more important than having organic assets.

The Twisted Genius

I notice the commander refers to troops of twenty or so men. That may be the basic building block of this unit. The ability to infiltrate an enemy controlled area, strike and return is IMO an advanced light infantry task. Again, the command, control, intelligence capabilities are impressive.



You do things like the yellow ribbons to be able to recognize each other when in the presence of an enemy who do not look very different. pl

Mark Pyruz

Colonel, another observer from Austria has been tracking SyAA for decades and is convinced the SyAA exists in name only. When you read in Al-Masdar News of this or that SyAA division, in reality these units are more correctly NDF using SyAA divisional HQs, and are being referred to by their HQ designations. That is to say, in actual unit composition, there is little actual relevance between units identified on the pre-conflict ORBAT and those by the same name currently engaged in the war.

Of course, this is what one would expect from a fighting force laden with multiple cycles of replacements over the course of a lengthy, attritional conflict.


Mark Pyruz

I have read his stuff and think he is a bogus crank. pl

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