Chapter 3. Security Sector Reform.
A reformed security sector will provide security for all citizens of Syria so they may exhttp://www.tda-sy.org/?page_id=8972ercise their political, economic, social and cultural freedoms. Transparent and accountable security institutions under civilian control will maintain public order and defend Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
3.1. Summary of Recommendations
Prior to the transition:
• Build trust between the political leadership of opposition groups and the Free Syrian Army.
• Initiate efforts to improve command and control among armed opposition groups, ensure their compliance with human rights standards, and establish their acceptance of civilian authority.
• Conduct a preliminary vetting of retired and active high-ranking officers in the armed forces and police to identify trustworthy individuals who might take leadership roles in security sector reform.
• Prepare for the establishment of a transitional security forced based on the Syrian National Police and other resources, including members of the armed and unarmed opposition.
• Create a committee to prepare and oversee the process of security sector reform in the transition period.
Immediate aftermath and short-term priorities (1 week-14 days):
• Maintain public order and provide security via a transitional security force that works closely with unarmed civilian groups at the neighborhood level.
• Appoint a credible army commander and return the army to barracks and bases. Reassure officers that the objective of security sector reform is to build a professional army.
• Abolish the existing intelligence services.
• Secure major conventional and nonconventional weapons; collect heavy and medium weapons; secure stockpiles of small weapons.
• Address armed groups by arresting, disarming, and detaining all those who have committed crimes against civilians. Dissolve non-state militias. Vet members of the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups.
Medium-term measures (1 ½-2 months):
• Maintain public security.
• Vet ranking officers in the armed forces.
• Identify, arrest, and detain for prosecution former regime officers responsible for human rights abuses.
• License personal small arms.
Long-term reforms (12 months-end of transitional period)
• Reform the governance of the armed forces.
• Reconstitute the armed forces on the basis of democratic principles.
• Integrate appropriate elements of the Free Syrian Army into the armed forces.
• Reform the governance of the national civilian police.
• Professionalize the national civilian police.
• Integrate armed civilian groups into the police as appropriate.
• Establish a new internal intelligence service.
• Establish a new external intelligence service.
• Establish new military intelligence departments.
Goals and Objectives
The people of Syria expect their new democratic leaders to provide security for all citizens and to replace the repressive and opaque security apparatus of the Assad regime with open, transparent, and accountable security institutions under civilian authority. The paramount function of these institutions is to furnish the security environment that all citizens need to exercise their political, economic, social, and cultural freedoms. Security institutions should respect human rights, maintain public order, and defend Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
While it involves many organizational changes and practical improvements, security sector reform is above all else a matter of governance. It consists of transferring control of the security forces to the people and their representatives. Security sector reform must flow from and is directly related to the establishment of democratic principles and the organization of a democratic government. Security sector reform is thus a vital component of a new democratic order, to be pursued simultaneously with efforts to provide for transitional justice and the rule of law.
Security sector reform is an imperative for Syria’s transitional government and a major factor in establishing the legitimacy of the new order and winning the allegiance of the populace. The transitional government’s credibility will be directly linked to its ability to launch a reformed security sector as a pillar of the new democracy.
Security sector reform will involve achieving the following objectives:
Objective 1. Provide effective security for all citizens of Syria so they may exercise their political, economic, social, and cultural freedoms while maintaining public order, respecting human rights, and defending the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Objective2. Establish civil-military relations in line with democratic principles. The armed forces, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies must be led by and operate under civilian authority.
Objective 3. Open service in the security sector, including the armed forces, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to all Syrian citizens regardless of their ethnic background and/or sectarian affiliation. This may include former members of the existing security agencies and the armed opposition, following proper vetting and reintegration procedures.
Objective 4. Detach the security sector from politics completely, so as to prevent factionalism within that sector. The security sector should serve the interests of the nation rather than the interests of any party, sect, or faction.
Objective 5. Entrust a reformed security sector with the defense and protection of the entire citizenry, without exception, from internal and external threats.
Objective 6. Provide civilian and military personnel of the security sector with professional training and development and the well-being they rightly deserve. This should include training in human rights as well as technical skills in such areas as criminal investigation and crowd management.
In the decades since the Ba’th Party seized power in 1963, Syria’s security sector has become integral to the functioning and maintenance of its successive regimes. Under the Ba’th, Syria has acquired a well-deserved reputation as a Mukhabarat State: a state and society dominated by vast, overlapping internal security agencies that operate with near absolute impunity and with complete disregard for the rights and dignity of the Syrian people. Through extensive networks of informers, surveillance, and the routine use of repression, the internal security apparatus of the Assad regime has been principally responsible for maintaining the wall of fear on which the regime’s survival has depended. In doing so, it has been implicated by international organizations such as Human Rights Watch in serious and systematic abuses of human rights, including arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial executions. Since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, internal security agencies have become increasingly prominent and brutal in their defense of the Assad regime, constituting a central link between the regime and non-state militias known as the Shabiha.
Through extensive networks of informers, surveillance, and the routine use of repression, the internal security apparatus of the Assad regime has been principally responsible for maintaining the wall of fear on which the regime’s survival has depended.
In addition to the internal security apparatus, Syria’s security sector also includes the armed forces. Until 2000, when Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father, Syria’s Ba’thist leaders had all risen to power through careers in the military. Under their tutelage, Syria’s armed forces grew dramatically, consuming almost 6 percent of GDP annually in the mid-2000s. While the military underwent a process of professionalization during the period of Hafiz al-Assad’s presidency (1970-2000), it continued to be seen as an extension of the ruling party and the regime, with little autonomy in terms of appointments, promotion, or decision-making, and with greatly disproportionate representation of members of the Alawite minority in key positions.
Links between the regime and the military have been institutionalized in the formation of units such as the infamous 4th Brigade, under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad, and the Republican Guards, charged with defense of the regime. Since March 2011, these loyalist units have been heavily involved in repression of protests and violent attempts to suppress the opposition.
The regime’s violent suppression of peaceful protest has set in motion a series of problematic consequences, including:
• Transformation of a peaceful protest movement into one dominated by armed struggle as a reaction to extreme regime violence;
• A Free Syrian Army to a large degree made up of civilians and a smaller proportion of defectors, that is increasingly well organized but still lacks central command and does not control all rebel forces, including Jihadist elements;
• The regime’s loss of control of some areas, where some state functions (including the provision of security) are being met by local revolutionary councils;
• An increasing reliance of the regime on armed thugs (Shabiha) to repress the uprising and exacerbate ethnic and sectarian divisions;
• Gross, systematic human rights violations committed by the regime forces with episodic instances of abuse committed by the armed opposition;
• An increase in ethnic and sectarian violence.
The large scale and extensive scope of the security sector in Syria, the legacies of its role in the repression of Syrian society, and its responsibility for much of the violence that has accompanied the Syrian revolution, pose major challenges to the success of a transition to democracy in a post-Assad Syria and underscore the importance of security sector reform as a centerpiece of such a transition. Other challenges depend on when and how the regime falls, particularly how prolonged and widespread the fighting is.
Immediately after the fall of the Assad regime, the transitional government will likely encounter urgent security challenges, including:
1. Civil disturbance; looting; revenge attacks;
2. Attempts by the current 4th Armored Brigade and Republican Guard to regain power and reinstall the Assad regime;
3. Attempts by regime remnants, including the Shabiha and other pro-regime paramilitary groups, to retaliate by using conventional and non-conventional weapons;
4. Attempts by regime remnants, including the Shabiha and other pro-regime paramilitary groups, to destabilize the situation, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, etc.;
5. Attempts by regime remnants and Ba’th Party militias to fight using arms caches stored in Ba’th Party buildings and those of affiliated political parties, organizations, and other entities;
6. Attempts by unauthorized armed groups, spoilers, and organized crime to exploit potential chaos for private gain;
7. Attempts by regime remnants to create an armed conflict with Israel through army divisions along Syrian-Israeli border.
8. The rise of private militias from armed opposition groups who refuse to come under the unified control and civilian authority of the transitional government, as political rivals for control of the state.
3.4. Detailed Strategies and Recommendations
To tackle the challenges and risks in the security field and achieve the above mentioned goals and objectives, The Day After project recommends the adoption of the following sequenced pragmatic plan.
Prior to Transition
Steps to be taken in advance of regime change:
1. Build trust between the political leadership of opposition groups and the Free Syrian Army through regular communication;
2. Initiate efforts to improve the command and control of armed opposition groups, ensure their compliance with human rights standards, and establish their acceptance of civilian authority;
3. Create an oversight committee to prepare and manage the reform of the security sector in the transition period. The committee might be made up of opposition civilians and members of the FSA, and be expanded to include trustworthy members of the police and the armed forces after the regime change.
4. Conduct a preliminary vetting of retired and active high-ranking officers in the army and police to determine who has not been involved in repression and is trustworthy, and who has been involved in repression;
5. Prepare for the establishment of a transitional security force based on Syrian National Police and other existing resources. This should include preparation for training in crowd management and professional criminal investigation (see Chapter 1);
6. Train military and police officers to take leadership roles in security sector reform;
7. Identify the cost of each of the steps of security sector reform;
8. Identify international resources for training and capacity building of security forces including institutional development.
Phase I: Immediate priorities and short-term measures (1 week-14 days)
Immediately after the collapse of the Assad regime and in the short term (1 week-14 days), the main objective of measures proposed is to (re)impose order, provide security to Syrian citizens, and instill confidence in the transitional government. Strategies and specific steps include:
Strategy 1. Maintain order and provide security.
• Entrust security to a transitional security force based on the Syrian National Police. This force will work to reestablish and maintain order, prevent vengeance attacks, protect strategic national assets and infrastructure in major cities, etc.
• The transitional security force will work closely with unarmed civilian groups to provide neighborhood security. Its activities will also be monitored by Rule of Law Monitors (see Chapter 1).
Strategy 2. Address existing formal security apparatus.
• Appoint a credible army commander. Withdraw the Syrian Army from towns and cities and relocate to bases and barracks in their pre-revolution positions.
• Reassure army officers that the objective is to build a patriotic and professional army and that their professional interests (such as budgetary needs, salaries, improvement of housing, etc.) will be heeded.
• Abolish existing intelligence services, collect their weapons, close their facilities, and arrest their key leaders. Members of the intelligence services will receive neither a blanket amnesty nor blanket lustration (See Chapter 2).
Strategy 3. Secure weapons.
• Secure conventional weapons (e.g., surface-to-surface missiles) and non-conventional weapons of mass destruction (e.g., chemical weapons).
• Collect heavy and medium weapons (including rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, etc.).
• Secure weapons stockpiles that exist in buildings controlled by the Ba’th Party and its affiliated political parties and popular organizations.
Strategy 4. Arrest perpetrators and initiate the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of armed actors.
• Arrest, disarm, and detain all those who have committed criminal acts against civilians, including key members of the Shabiha, Ba’th Party militias, and other paramilitary groups (See Chapter 1 regarding their safe detention; see Chapter 2 Justice regarding their prosecution).
• Disarm and dissolve all special armed political units that currently operate in universities, syndicates, and other Ba’th Party organizations, etc.
• Deny escape to regime remnants and other wrongdoers by closely monitoring borders, ports, and airports.
• Vet FSA personnel according to international practice. Identify and separate opportunists.
Phase II: Medium-term measures (1½ month-2 months)
In the medium-term (1½ month-2 months) the objective of proposed measures is to stabilize the transitional government and lay the foundations for security sector reform. Strategies and specific steps include:
Strategy 1. Vet ranking officers in the armed forces.
Vetting should be undertaken according to internationally accepted norms and standards, and aim to ensure a commitment within the armed forces to democracy and to the civilian authority of the transitional government.
Strategy 2. Identify, arrest, and detain perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Organize a nationwide campaign to identify and arrest former regime officers responsible for atrocities and human rights abuses. Detain them in secure locations, as they may be subject to revenge attacks (see Chapter 1). They will be prosecuted in courts of law (see Chapter 2).
Strategy 3. License personal small arms.
Small arms may be possessed but must be licensed.
Strategy 4. Maintain public security.
The transitional security force should give particular attention to large public gatherings as the transition proceeds. The transitional security force should also work with the oversight of Rule of Law Monitors (see Chapter 1).
Phase III: Long-term measures (12 months/end of transitional period)
In the long-term (12 months or until the end of the transition period), the main objective is full reform of the security sector. This will include restructuring and transforming the armed forces into a professional army under civilian control. It will also involve consolidating a new civilian national police force and establishing new intelligence agencies. Strategies and specific steps include:
Strategy 1. Reform the governance of the armed forces.
In keeping with democratic norms, the armed forces should be subject to civilian authority. The transitional government should establish the Syrian Armed Forces as the guardians and protectors of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. As such, the Syrian Armed Forces will dedicate themselves solely to the provision of security against external threats and enemies.
Depending on the type of political system Syria adopts following the collapse of the Assad regime (presidential, parliamentarian, etc.), the President/Prime Minister will be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the ultimate authority on defense policy. The respective heads of the Armed Forces (Chief of Staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force) will report to the President/Prime Minister through the Minister of Defense. The Minister of Defense will be a civilian official responsible for the formulation and implementation of defense policy and the overall management of the Armed Forces (the Minister of Defense will work through the individual heads of the Army, Navy, and Air Force).
The Day After project recommends the following specific measures regarding governance of the armed forces:
• The Transitional President/Prime Minister should appoint the Transitional Minister of Defense (civilian) and Transitional Chiefs of Staff (military officers). Given the political culture in which Syrians are embedded, the position of Minister of Defense could be entrusted to a respected senior retired officer, but only during the transitional period.
• The MOD and military budgets will be proposed by the President/Prime Minister and approved by the Transitional Assembly/Parliament.
• The Chiefs of Staff of the armed services (army, navy, air force) should be nominated by the President/Prime Minister and confirmed by the Transitional Assembly/Parliament.
• The Minister of Defense, the Chiefs of Staff, and their senior subordinates will keep the Transitional Assembly/Parliament informed of important policy decisions.
Strategy 2. Reconstitute the armed forces.
The size of the army should be determined by the national civilian leadership according to the requirements of military strategy and assessments of the foreign threat. A decision on military service should be made by the elected Parliament. Until such decisions are made, compulsory service should be suspended.
Given the history of the armed forces under the Ba’th, members of the armed forces should be provided not only technical training, but also training regarding professionalism, rule of law, respect for human rights, accountability, and civilian authority.
Strategy 3. Integrate FSA personnel into the armed forces or police.
Following established international practices, members of the FSA should have access to a program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. As appropriate, its members should be integrated into the Syrian armed forces or the police.
Strategy 4. Reform the governance of the national civilian police.
The transitional government should elevate the Ministry of Interior to a place of primacy in the security structure of the state and establish a National Civilian Police Force (NCPF) to enforce the rule of law and to protect citizens, including ensuring their basic human rights. The NCPF will be responsible for maintaining public order and controlling crime, working closely with the Ministry of Justice, and investigating magistrates. The head of the NCPF should report directly to the Minister of Interior and be responsible for day-to-day police operations and citizen security. The Minister of Interior will provide for a modern, efficient police force based on democratic principles and with a suitable institutional framework to ensure the development of a professional police cadre.
In addition to the NCPF, the Ministry of Interior will include a Major Crime Bureau, which will be responsible for conducting investigations (in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice) of organized criminal activity including the trafficking of narcotics, weapons, people, and nuclear materials. The Major Crime Bureau will also be responsible for conducting investigations (in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice) of crimes of terrorism and subversion. The director of the Major Crime Bureau will report directly to the Minister of Interior.
The Ministry of Interior will also house other civilian security functions, as required, such as border police, customs police, and immigration authorities.
The Day After project recommends the following specific measures regarding governance of the national civilian police:
• The Transitional President/Prime Minister should designate the Transitional Minister of Interior (civilian); the Minister will be confirmed by the Transitional Assembly/Parliament. The Interior Minister will appoint the Chief of the Civilian Police and the Chief of the Major Crime Bureau;
• The police budget will be proposed by the Minister of Interior (MOI) in consultation with the President/Prime Minister and approved by Transitional Assembly/Parliament;
• The Transitional Minister of Interior, Chief of NCP and the Chief of the Major Crime Bureau will keep Parliament informed of major policy and operational issues.
Strategy 5. Reconstitute and professionalize the national civilian police.
Following proper vetting, members of armed opposition groups and of unarmed civilian groups may be integrated into the NCPF.
Given the history of the police forces in Syria, their reform should include training in a range of professional skills such as criminal investigation and nonviolent crown management, as well as instruction regarding human rights, rule of law, , accountability, etc.
Strategy 6. Reorganize the intelligence services.
The transitional government should abolish the existing intelligence apparatus and establish new intelligence services (external intelligence and military intelligence). The functions of internal intelligence will be housed in the Major Crime Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. The new intelligence services will not interfere in political affairs and will be led by civilian directors. The reorganization of the intelligence apparatus will reduce the number of existing personnel.
Rehabilitation and vocational training will be offered to personnel released as a result of the downsizing with the aim of reintegrating them into society.
Strategy 7. Establish a new external intelligence service.
The transitional government should establish a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to conduct research, analysis, and foreign intelligence operations. This agency’s mission should be apolitical and concerned exclusively with the assessment of threats from abroad. The NIA will provide the transitional leadership (including the leadership of the armed forces) with actionable intelligence as required. External operations can be carried out only with the express authorization and oversight of the President/Prime Minister.
The Day After project recommends the following specific measures regarding the external intelligence service:
• The Transitional Chief of the NIA will be nominated by the President/Prime Minister in consultation with Parliament;
• The NIA budget will be proposed by the President/Prime Minister and approved by Parliament;
• The Transitional Chief of NIA will keep Parliament informed of major policy and operational issues.
Strategy 8. Establish new military intelligence departments.
The Minister of Defense in the transitional government should establish military intelligence departments within the various armed services (Air Force, Army, and Navy). These units should provide research, analysis, and operational intelligence to the armed services. These departments should be apolitical and charged exclusively with assessment of tactical intelligence directly related to operations of the respective branch and the assessment of military-related threats. The departments should provide the civilian and military leadership of Syria with actionable intelligence as required. Military intelligence units should not be involved in internal security, which will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior.
The Day After project recommends the following specific measures regarding the military intelligence departments:
• The heads of the military intelligence departments should be named by the Minister of Defense in consultation with the chiefs of the armed forces;
• The funds for these departments should be included in the regular Defense Ministry budget.
3.5. Timeline to Implement
Figure 3-1 depicts the notional timeline to implement Security Sector Reform.
Figure 3-1: Timeline to Implement Security Sector Reform
3.6. Selected Resources
Alden, Chris, Monika Thakur, and Matthew Arnold. Militias and the Challenges of Post-Conflict Peace. London and New York: Zed Books, 2011.
Arab Reform Initiative. http://www.arab-reform.net/. [July 2012].
Civic, Melanne A. and Michael Miklavcic, eds. Monopoly of Force: the Nexus of DDR and SSR. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2011. Available at http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/pdf/books/monopoly-of-force.pdf [July 2012].
Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces. http://www.dcaf.ch/ [July 2012].
Sayigh, Yezid. “‘Fixing Broken Windows’: Security Sector Reform in Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen.” Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009. Available at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/security_sector_reform.pdf [July 2012].
UN Security Sector Reform. http://unssr.unlb.org/ [July 2012].