UPDATE: On December 9, Yasser Dahla appeared on a video and denied that he had defected from the SDF.
On December 8, Yasser Dahla, a commander of the Arab al-Bagharah tribe forces in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), defected with its fighters and joined the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), according to opposition and pro-government sources. A field commander of al-Bagharah tribe forces named Abu al-Majad al-Rifi was also among those who had defected from the SDF, according to reports.
The Al-Bagarah tribe is the biggest tribe in eastern Syrian and was one of the key Arab allies of the SDF. However, tensions between the tribe and the SDF erupted when SDF fighters looted the tribe’s villages on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
Later, opposition sources reported that the tension between al-Bagharah tribe and the SDF reached a dangerous level when the SDF leadership ignored the the tribe’s leaders demand to put an end to the looting during a meeting on November 27.
Dahla himself was reportedly arrested with four of his fighters on October 1 after refusing to obey the orders of the SDF leadership. Back then, many locals saw the arrest of Dahla as an insult to the al-Bagharah tribe.
While the defect of Dahla and his fighters will not change the military situation in eastern Syria, it will certainly damage the SDF image as a “Syrian” force. The defect of Dahla will also encourage other Arab elements in the SDF who don’t agree with the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) policies to defect.