The international coalition to fight ISIS has appointed a new commander of the Maghaweer al-Thawra faction based in the U.S. base of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria. General Muhannad al-Talla’a was replaced by Mohammed Farid al-Qasem.
According to the opposition website Enab Baladi, this decision paved the way for controversy in the southeastern area. Two local sources living in Rukban told Enab Baladi that the camp witnessed protests against the removal of Talla’a. A section of the camp’s residents sees Talla’a as a “symbol of the revolution.” The two sources quoted the views of several residents of the al-Qaryatayn area, from which the new commander of the faction, Mohammed Farid al-Qasem, hails. He is a “cruel person” who cannot take over the management of civilian affairs in Rukban, as they said. Tallaa’s removal came after he travelled to Turkey, where a decision was issued by the international coalition to “retire” him during his absence, according to a member of the faction’s media office. He pointed out that Talla’a frequented Turkey at various intervals of time to visit his family living there.
The opposition website al-Tareek reported that there were divisions among the group. In fact, Colonel Farid al-Qassem, the new commander of the Maghaweer al-Thawra army, said that the new changes in the faction’s leadership were imposed by the requirements of the next stage. In an interview with the Lebanese website Al-Modon, he noted that “the stage needs a different approach to what was previously. There were some mistakes, and we hope to correct them.” Qassem stressed that “there are no divisions” within the Maghaweer. “Some council members,” he explained, “rejected this decision because I am not affiliated with the Maghaweer, but now they understand the point, and we will work together to follow up the mission of the Maghaweer Al-Thawra.”
The Kurdish agency North Press presents a different view. The Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) welcomed Farid al-Qassem in a tweet saying, “We remain committed to our Combined anti-ISIS campaign & to promoting peace & regional stability.” In a statement released on Sunday, the Joint Military Command of the Maghaweir al-Thowra rejected the US decision to appoint al-Qassem as the group’s new leader, denouncing the Coalition’s attempts to intervene in its internal affairs.
The Maghaweer al-Thawra maintains at least 300 militants in the Coalition al-Tanf garrison, where some 200 US troops are usually deployed. Qassem, who is a violent radical, was reportedly appointed as the new leader of the Maghaweir al-Thowra upon direct orders from the US Central Command. Tallaa was allegedly sacked from his position because of a recent trip he made to Turkey, during which he held talks with the country’s intelligence officials. he decision to remove Tallaa led to a series of protests by civilians and militants in the al-Tanf garrison and the nearby Rukban refugee camp.