The last Syrian ‘rebel’ unit on the US payroll is dissolving by desertions. A former senior officer in the US-backed mercenary unit Maghaweir al-Thowra (MAT) deserted his unit in Syria in April 2020.
Samir Ghannam al-Khidr also deserted the Eastern Syrian desert along with his whole family and 26 armed men.
The convoy was subject to a video on social media, which showed 8 pickups, 1 truck, 11 small arms, including 5 M-16 rifles, 4 large-caliber machine guns, 5 grenade launchers and 6-7 thousand rounds of ammunition.
All of the vehicles and weaponry were US military property. Al-Khidr left the illegal US military base at Tanf, which is home to about 200 US soldiers, and about 100 mercenaries of MAT.
The MAT is made up of various Eastern Syrian tribes. English as a second language is taught beginning in 4th grade in all Syrian public schools, which are free of cost and are compulsory through the 9th grade.
A US soldier was tasked with being the official public relations representative for MAT and sits at a laptop every day fielding complaints, accusations and commenting on charges against MAT in the news and social media.
The US Army Special Forces have trained MAT at Tanf since 2016 to help fight ISIS against the Shi’ite government in Damascus.
The MAT also was guarding the Baghdad-Damascus highway, which is a strategic trade route. Tanf is a US military base in Syria which is illegal under international law.
There is no purpose for the base at Tanf except to thwart the free movement of goods and people on the Iraq-Syria highway.
The recent deserter, Samir Ghannam al-Khidr, has been accused of being a drug dealer and smuggler between Jordan and the illegal US base at Tanf. He was accused last year of drug dealing and was detained but allowed to return to the US base at Tanf.
This is not the first time drugs have made headlines in connection with the US Special Forces at Tanf. In June 2018, MAT was involved in a large drug bust at Tanf. The drugs were estimated to be valued at about $1.4 million. The unit captured more than 300,000 Captagon tablets.
Captagon is classified as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and has been used by ISIS as it keeps the fighters awake and has a mental effect of diminishing the conscience, allowing them to be vicious killers. Captagon is also the popular illicit drug throughout the Arab Gulf, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
MAT may have been introduced to the value of drug dealing in an area in Syria which has no government, or police supervision. The US base at Tanf is in a ‘no-man’s-land’ without any police, courts or judges.
The Syrian government is not present there, and the US military likely turned a blind eye to the crimes being carried out by their mercenaries MAT.
The Rukban Refugee Camp is near the base at Tanf, and MAT has been used to provide security for the camp. Thousands of refugees have been living in squalor and suffering there.
Abu Muhammed recalled his ordeal at Rukban after leaving and told of how MAT would sell aid items that had been donated by international relief organizations.
To get money, we had to work at the camp. They set up a brick factory and we had to work like dogs there,” he said, and added, “They are all armed, they walk the camp with rifles, they have semi-military equipment and they own the place.
American Herald Tribune / ABC Flash Point News 2020.