Malhama Tactical is a Youtube and Twitter tactical training entity that is the creation of a certain Abu Rofiq, an Uzbek who claims to have served in the Russian Airborne Forces. Rofiq speaks Russian, and all his media is also in Russian, but that doesn’t necessarily explicitly mean he was enlisted in the Russian Army. Russian is a second language to many of the Central Asian Republics, however there was a measure passed by the Russian Government that allowed foreigners to enlist. His “company” bills itself as a tactical consulting company for various groups within Syria. Specifically he allies with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formally Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Nusra proclaimed alliances with al-Qaeda but that really appears to be a formality rather than a complete branch of the group in Syria, al-Nusra’s aims and motivations are much more Syrian focused, than al-Qaeda’s MENA and international intentions.
Either way, unlike much of what we have seen when it comes to the fighting skill sets of any side in the Syrian conflict, Malhama Tactical does have a fair dose of legitimacy. You can see this in their Youtube videos emphasizing trigger safety, transitions, marksmanship, and even tactical care under fire. But from what I can observe, it appears more so that Rofiq has undergone some legitimate training, but only at an entry level. For example, in his medical care under fire video, although he showcases tactical medical care, he completely forgets to maintain a security posture, instead completely focusing on the patient with his team. This is a common mistake that many new soldiers make, myself included as a young Infantry Marine. Getting your wounded buddy taken care of is certainly important, but all the medical care in the world will go to waste if you can’t provide good security around your patient.
But notice the quality of medical materials they have on hand. CAT Tourniquets, SOC-Ts, NAR products, Combat Gauze, H&H bandages. These are common issue items among modern militaries and command a premium on the civilian market, even in the United States. The fact that the group has access to this shows some sort of supply line or at the very least a corrupt official somewhere along the line, chucking them downrange to the guys.
Another example is in one training video where his “team” is online, providing fire downrange, while an RPG gunner goes for an RPG shot, prepping the RPG while online as well. Any soldier knows the importance of an HE solution, but an experienced soldier will understand why “Cold” and “Hot” positions exist, prepping the RPG undercover in a “Cold” position, then moving to the “Hot” position while friendly forces provide covering fire.
Then in this video, Melhama Tactical is shown assaulting a Syrian Army position. Although their individual actions are up to par, utilizing cover, having a stable position to engage with the PKM, reloading, their understanding of movement and working as a team just isn’t there. This is also something that a new soldier would also make mistakes with. Guys are rushing, alone, far ahead of their teammates, and essentially moving haphazardly across the battlefield, without any coordination.
They even have this odd grip attached to a PKM, which probably feels really cool, but shoulder firing a medium machine gun is completely dismissing any real capability it has when shot from a bipod or otherwise steady position.
Again in this video, we have a good grasp of tactical reloading, pieing corners, frag battle drills, and making use of cover. But there isn’t the holistic approach that is required when it comes to actually clearing rooms or buildings. Namely that you cannot clear a building with two fighters, you need more like a squad or even a platoon. And that isn’t even considering the blocking force outside, providing external and internal security around the building itself. Examples in the video show Rofiq and his buddy entering rooms alone, which is never ever acceptable in a military application (LE is a different story).
His group is also manufacturing their own hand grenades. Hand grenades from legitimate manufacturing faculties can be dangerous enough, never mind homemade ones. Indeed, even from a tactical side, the fuses appear to take either a good while to explode compared to standard grenade fuses.
In conclusion as I mentioned earlier, Rofiq certainly has the individual actions and tactical necessities in order that most young soldiers possess, in any modern army. But he lacks the overall necessary tactical decision making that comes with being an experienced Infantry soldier, or an NCO. This leads me to believe that he was a soldier of a legitimate army, whether Russian, or Uzbek, but he deserted or left before he could get to a level necessary to actually lead men into battle. Does he pose an actual threat in the amount of training that he can provide al-Nusra or even as a direct action participant? I wouldn’t really say so. A special operations capacity can be a tremendous advantage to any terrorist organization, but if it can’t be supported tactically and logistically by a properly trained force, whatever short-term advantages it offers won’t be a long-term gain.