The previous post for Jihadology discussed life in the Islamic State training camps through looking at the terms of an IS training camp contract in a sample document from the pre-Caliphate era. This post serves as a companion follow-up in examining what the structure of an IS training camp might look like, using another document obtained amid the Turkish-backed ‘Euphrates Shield’ Syrian rebel operations against IS that currently aim to drive out IS from the north Aleppo city stronghold of al-Bab.
The document provides a general survey of details regarding a training camp in Aleppo province, including an overview of location, key officials, trainers, weapons inventory and needs of the camp. Like the training camp contract, this document also comes under the administrative label of Idarat al-Mu’askarat (‘Camps Administration’), but the use of the label ‘Islamic State’ alone, rather than Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) as appears in the training camp contract, indicates that the document dates after the Caliphate’s declaration on 29 June 2014, even as a precise date is missing.
The camp’s location is of particular interest: namely, the al-Jarrah airbase that is located to the southeast of Deir Hafer, an Aleppo province town controlled by IS and renamed Dar al-Fatah to remove the original name’s Christian connotations (deir being a monastery). The airbase was originally captured from the regime by rebel factions in early 2013, with Ahrar al-Sham putting out a statement on the matter, asserting that the base was captured following a siege that lasted around a month, imposed by Ahrar al-Sham alongside two factions called Liwa al-Islam and Liwa Rayat al-Nasr.
Since at least January-February 2014, the al-Jarrah airbase would have been under the control of what was then ISIS, which expelled the rebel factions from east Aleppo countryside in the major infighting. At the present time, the al-Jarrah airbase is of interest as it falls in the purview of a wider competition between the regime and Syrian rebels to seize territory from IS to the east of Aleppo city (e.g. see this map). While the most immediate key target for both parties has been al-Bab, it appears Turkey and Russia have been working together to de-conflict operations, which could see a de facto concession of al-Bab to Turkey. But what then for areas like Deir Hafer and the al-Jarrah airbase?
Based on the document under consideration here, a sample structure of a training camp might be pictured as follows:
– Deputy amir
– Shari’i [managing religious affairs, providing religious instruction etc.]
– Admin official
It is of course impossible to generalize from this document alone (e.g. there could be other IS training camps much larger than this one), but hopefully it sheds some light on structures of training camps. Foreigners play important leadership roles in this training camp from the document: going by the kunyas, the amir is of Maghreb origin, the deputy amir of Algerian origin, two of the trainers of Uyghur origin (Turkistani), and the other two Indonesian. The Shari’i and admin officials, also going by the kunyas, are originally locals from Aleppo province (Halabi). Again, one should be cautious in generalizing too much from this sample alone. With the lack of a precise date, certain aspects of the training camp may have also been overhauled/altered over time depending on circumstances.
Below is the document with translation. Anything in square brackets indicates an explanation inserted by me for clarity.
Abu al-Jarrah camp
Wilaya [province] : Aleppo
Place of camp: al-Jarrah airbase
Amir of the camp: Abu al-Faruq al-Maghrebi
Deputy amir: Abu Bayan al-Jaza’iri
Shari’i of the camp: Abu Hadi al-Halabi
Admin official of the camp: Abu Muhammad al-Halabi
No. of trainers: 4
|Trainer’s name||Trainer’s specialties|
|Salam al-Turkistani||Direct combat|
|Mahdi al-Turkistani||Bayonet combat|
|Omar al-Indonesi||Physical fitness|
|Abu Bakr al-Indonesi||Vehicles combat|
4 Hyundai Verna taxis
16 German Kalashnikov rifles
1 chest of grenades
18 pistols (8.5mm), machine gun 12.5mm.
Machine gun 23mm, machine gun 12.5mm, 10 explosive belts
No. of trainees: 50
Maximum capacity: 80
Signature of the amir of the camps
Signature of the admin official