Syrian Rebels Have More Woman Infantry Commanders Than the U.S. Military Does
by DAVID AXE
Amira Aroor is a brigade commander in the 1st Division of the rebel Free Syrian Army. She’s also a woman. That means the main Syrian opposition force has precisely one more woman infantry commander than the entire U.S. military.
Women in the American armed forces can fight on the front lines as pilots, combat medics, military police, intelligence agents and other specialties. And they can lead units of similar specialists. Last year the Pentagon announced it would gradually open all military jobs to women. For its part, the Army plans to train female infantry starting in 2015.
So it’ll be a few years before women can command American infantry units. But the FSA, locked in a desperate battle with the regime of Pres. Bashar Al Assad and his allies in Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, doesn’t have the luxury of time.
So despite a deep cultural bias against women as leaders in Syria and other Arab societies, Aroor—a former captain in the Syrian military—finds herself in charge of a full rebel brigade numbering potentially hundreds of fighters.
(For you jargon sticklers, Syrian rebels use the terms “battalion,” “brigade” and “division” loosely and sometimes interchangeably.)
We didn’t meet Aroor and know very little about her. She appears in the background of a video announcing the 1st Division’s formation.
We did meet her boss, 1st Division commander Gen. Abdulateef Khalat, a former senior Syrian army officer of 43 years’ experience who defected from the regime in 2011.
Khalat’s 1st Division is one of the more secular and, frankly, Western-seeming FSA units. “Muslims, Jews and Christians have the same beliefs,” Khalat says by way of introduction.
As the FSA formed in mid-2011, Khalat says he approached opposition forces leader Gen. Salim Idris and told him the 1st Division should be the strong core of the FSA—and the basis of a new Syrian army after the war. “We told him we built this moderate division, support us before the extremists come — and they will come. Support us before Syria burns.”
Khalat vowed to Idris that the 1st Division would liberate the northern city of Idlib … and then the rest of Syria. Today Idlib is surrounded by rebel fighters including newly formed factions of radical Islamists, but regime forces still hold some neighborhoods.
Subscribe to War is Boring here.