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Syria Military - 2024


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Military and security forces

Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army (includes Republican Guard), Syrian Naval Forces, Syrian Air Forces, Syrian Air Defense Forces, National Defense Forces (NDF), and Local Defense Forces (LDF) (2023)

note: NDF and LDF are pro-government militia and auxiliary forces; some militia and auxiliary forces are backed by Iran; the Syrian military is also supported by the Russian armed forces, the Iran-affiliated Hizballah terrorist group, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Military expenditures

6.5% of GDP (2019 est.)
6.7% of GDP (2018 est.)
6.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
6.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
7.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

current estimates not available; the Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) are rebuilding after suffering significant casualties and desertions since the start of the civil war in 2011; prior to the civil war, the SAF had approximately 300,000 troops, including 200-225,000 Army, plus about 300,000 reserve forces (2023)

note: pro-government militia and auxiliary forces probably number in the tens of thousands

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SAF's inventory is comprised mostly of older Russian and Soviet-era equipment; in recent years, Russia has supplied the majority of Syria's imported weapons systems (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-42 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; conscript service obligation is 18 months; women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve, including in combat arms (2023)

note 1: the military is comprised largely of conscripts

note 2: Syrian women have been serving in combat roles since 2013; in 2015, the Syrian military created an all-female commando brigade

Military - note

the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has operated in the Golan between Israel and Syria since 1974 to monitor the ceasefire following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and supervise the areas of separation between the two countries; UNDOF has about 1,000 personnel 

multiple actors are conducting military operations in Syria in support of the ASAD government or Syrian opposition forces, as well in pursuit of their own security goals, such as counterterrorism; operations have included air strikes, direct ground combat, and sponsoring proxy forces, as well as providing non-lethal military support, including advisors, technicians, arms and equipment, funding, intelligence, and training:

pro-ASAD elements operating in Syria have included the Syrian Arab Army, Lebanese Hizbollah, Iranian, Iranian-backed Shia militia, and Russian forces; since early in the civil war, the ASAD government has relied on Lebanese Hizballah (see Appendix T for further information), as well as Iran and Iranian-backed irregular forces, for combat operations and to hold territory; since 2011, Iran has provided military advisors and combat troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (including the Qods Force; see Appendix T for further information), as well as intelligence, logistical, material, technical, and financial support; it has funded, trained, equipped, and led Shia militia/paramilitary units comprised of both Syrian and non-Syrian personnel, primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; Russia intervened at the request of the ASAD government in 2015 and has since provided air support, special operations forces, military advisors, private military contractors, training, arms, and equipment; Iranian and Russian support has also included assisting Syria in combating the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS; see Appendix T) terrorist group

Turkey has intervened militarily several times since 2016 to combat Kurdish militants and ISIS, support select Syrian opposition forces, and establish a buffer along portions of its border with Syria; Turkey continues to maintain a considerable military presence in northern Syria; it has armed and trained militia/proxy forces, such as the Syrian National Army, which was formed in late 2017 of Syrian Arab and Turkmen rebel factions in the Halab (Aleppo) province and northwestern Syria

the US and some regional and European states have at times backed Syrian opposition forces militarily and/or conducted military operations, primarily against ISIS; the US has operated in Syria since 2015 with ground forces and air strikes; the majority the US ground forces are deployed in the Eastern Syria Security Area (ESSA, which includes parts of Hasakah and Dayr az Zawr provinces east of the Euphrates River) in support of operations by the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS, while the remainder are in southeast Syria around At Tanf supporting counter-ISIS operations by the Syrian Free Army opposition force; the US has also conducted air strikes against Syrian military targets in response to Syrian Government use of chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians; in addition, France, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UK have provided forms of military assistance to opposition forces and/or conducted operations against ISIS, including air strikes

Israel has conducted hundreds of military air strikes in Syria against Syrian military, Hizballah, Iranian, and/or Iranian-backed militia targets

the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of forces comprised primarily of Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Syriac Christian fighters; it is dominated and led by Kurdish forces, particularly the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia; the SDF began to receive US support in 2015 and as of 2023 was the main local US partner in its counter-ISIS campaign; the SDF has internal security, counterterrorism, and commando units; Turkey views the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a US-designated terrorist organization (see Appendix T)

the ISIS terrorist group (see Appendix T) lost its last territorial stronghold to SDF forces in 2019, but continues to maintain a low-level insurgency; in addition, the SDF holds about 10,000 captured suspected ISIS fighters in detention facilities across northern Syria, including 2,000 from countries other than Iraq and Syria

the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS; formerly known as al-Nusrah Front) terrorist organization (see Appendix T) is the dominant militant group in northwest Syria and has asserted considerable influence and control over the so-called Syrian Salvation Government in the Iblib de-escalation zone and the Aleppo province (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Syria on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Syria 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Syria 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.