In 2012, Rami Makhlouf's al-Bustan Association established a military wing to serve as an auxiliary force for the Syrian armed forces. One of the groups affiliated with the al-Bustan Association's military wing is the Kameet Forces, which also has links with Suheil al-Hassan's renowned Tiger Forces of the Air Intelligence. Today I interviewed Firas Issa, a commander from the Kameet Forces, to discuss the history of the group and the recent announcement by Donald Trump of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. Any parenthetical insertions are in square brackets.
Q: Firstly when was the Kameet Forces set up? In which battles have the forces participated?
A: The Kameet Forces was set up in 2013. The formation's first assignments were protecting the Jazal, Sha'ar, al-Mahr and Hayan oil fields. Our assignment of protecting the fields ended in 2015. We have participated in the Great Battle of Aleppo, the battle of north Hama countryside, the battle of warding off the Da'esh [Islamic State] attack from the T4 military airport after the fall of Palmyra, the battle of assaulting the Tanf route and the Khanafis mines, the battle to liberate the Arak oil field and the T3 pumping station, the battle of Hamima on the Albukamal route, the battle of liberating the Abu al-Dhuhur military airport, the battle of liberating East Ghouta, the battle of Deraa and resisting the attack on Suwayda', and liberating the al-Safa hills. And currently we are preparing ourselves for the Idlib battle.
We were trained in the Sayyid Abbas institute in Lebanon at the hands of Hezbollah experts. Our speciality is machine gun assaults, of type Doushka machine gun 57 mm.
Q: Yes. Approximately how many martyrs has the Kameet Forces offered?
A: Around 40-50 martyrs. I have been wounded 9 times. And we have a large number of wounded among our fighters.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the affiliation of the forces with the al-Bustan Association? Does it mean that the forces receive salaries from the Association only?
A: Yes brother. The al-Bustan Association is fundamentally a charity association. It set up the military wing in 2012. The salaries are from Rami Makhlouf. We are considered the first auxiliary for the Air Intelligence: the Kameet Battalion- Special Assignments, dispatched with the Tiger expeditionary force. That is, most of our presence is in the battles with the Tiger Forces.
Q: Yes, and the arming of Kameet is from the Tiger Forces?
A: No brother, arming is from the Air Intelligence Administration. All the salaries of the fighters of the Tiger expeditionary force are from the al-Bustan Association. That is, the Association assumes responsibility for financial matters. While the Air Intelligence Administration assumes responsibility for combat matters and arming.
Q: Yes. And the training is by Hezbollah.
A: We as a special assignments battalion were trained with the friends from Hezbollah. And we undertook intensive courses in arms, maintenance and shooting.
Q: Yes. Lastly I would like to ask what your opinion is on the withdrawal of the American occupier from Syria. Who will benefit most from that?
A: Of course Turkey brother. Turkey with the factions of the insurgents will attack the east of the Euphrates and if their operation succeeds it means the insurgent factions will control 35% of the land. And in the end America is an enemy, and likewise Turkey. The biggest beneficiary is Turkey in my view.
Q: Yes. In your opinion the best solution is for the Syrian Democratic Forces to return to the embrace of the homeland?
A: Of course this is the best solution: that the Syrian Democratic Forces should return under the banner of the Syrian command. If the Syrian command directs a quick strike on the insurgents, and heads to the east of the Euphrates, we will be in control of the land. In the end the Americans are like the Turks. The two countries are hostile.