A “forlorn hope” in SE Raqqa Province


"On August 24, ISIS launched a large counter-attack and recaptured the villages of al-Muqlah, al-Atshanah, Salem al-Hamad, al-Bu Hamad, Zor Shumr, al-Huwijah and Ghanem al-Ali in the southern Raqqa countryside. According to the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq, ISIS killed 42 Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers during the attack. 58 more SAA members were allegedly killed in a car bomb attack on a gathering of SAA soldiers near Ghanim al-Ali village. On August 25, clashes continued with the SAA and it sallies were attempting to regain momentum in the area."    SF


IS is desperate to make a stand somewhere in the vast Raqqa/Homs/Hama Provinces area in which a combination of R+6 ground forces and R+6/US coalition air is cutting them to pieces and then crushing the pieces.

In the west of this set of cauldron battles, HTS Al-Qa'ida forces have tried in the last three days to break through across the Salamiya to Aleppo supply road to open an escape or reinforcement route to trapped IS forces south of the road.  Politically this is a surprise because of the unusual character of this cooperation between the two jihadi groups, but, it seems that the need to confront the R+6 forces has overcome that inhibition in this case.  In any event, the effort appears to have failed even as this IS pocket continues to shrink.

In the east of the set of ongoing battles, IS forces were massed yesterday for an attack along the Euphrates River to the NW through villages held by pro-government tribals in an economy of force role to free up heavy forces for other missions.  These IS forces re-captured half a dozen small villages and killed around a hundred tribals and SAA soldiers.

Their success has IMO placed these IS fighters in an indefensible salient with the irrigated strip of the Euphrates Valley and the river itself to their north or right depending on how you want to express it.  The SDF holds the ground to the north of the river.   The ground south of the salient is held by the R+6.

Penetrations like this inevitably run out of steam unless reinforcements are stacked up behind them to be pushed forward as losses occur by attrition.

I expect that R+6 will re-position heavy mechanized forces and will attack to the river with maximum air support. 

This should be a rewarding killing ground in which to send a lot of IS jihadis "home."  pl 


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22 Responses to A “forlorn hope” in SE Raqqa Province

  1. Linda says:

    But, I can’t help but think of the poor people. This is not an expression of opposition to current tactics, and I don’t forget ISIS atrocities. But I feel sorry for the people in all those villages. Don’t know why this struck me particularly today, but it did.

  2. mike says:

    Daesh is getting desperate enough that they are now starting to relax religious edicts and lower religious punishments. Many of their hisbah, the morality police, are being asked to fight against the SDF.
    But they are are also raising taxes since their funds are drying up. That is counteracting their attempts to appear as a softer, kinder caliphate.

  3. Lemur says:

    According to reports, units of Tiger Forces have been dispatched to lead the counter-attack. I’m speculating ISIS only tried this in the first place because the Tiger Forces are busy mopping up in East Hama and north-eastern Homs.
    When those pockets are closed, looking at the order of battle on wikipedia for central Syria (for what that’s worth), the pro-Assad alliance will be able to concentrate several elements of elite units on a single front; drawing from the Tiger Forces, Republican Guard, 4th Mechanized Division, 5th Corp, and Liwa al-Quds.
    I will be very interested to observe the emerging force structure for the coming Battle of Deir Ez Zor.

  4. Lars says:

    Col. Lang:
    I appreciate your, TTG and others, military assessments regarding what is happening in the Middle East. As far as I know, this is the only place were it is available. My own experience in this area is non-existent, since I only spent 38 days in the Royal Swedish Cavalry (K1), drafted by mistake while still in college and then being declared 1-Y by the SSS in 1966. Thus I have to rely on your, and others, earned expertise.
    I still wonder if this is just another chapter in the very long history of warfare in that area? This is where our civilization started about 13K years ago and it is rather depressing if it is.
    I am still of the opinion that the invasion of Iraq is one of the biggest blunders in US history and we may very well reap the rewards of that for many years to come.

  5. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel,
    so IS created a Cauldron for themselves by themselves.
    The Ukrainian forces provided an excellent example of a penetration salient into Donbass that ran out of steam and collapsed into a cauldron when they over-extended their supply lines.
    To me this is a lower level of strategy than ISIS has exhibited until perhaps 6 months ago.
    Would you estimate this indicates successful decapitation of their better strategists, or a loss of communication such that small battle groups are attempting poorly planned mobilizations on their own? In either case, it points towards rapid collapse.
    The two areas where it makes the most sense for ISIS to apply their dwindling resources is in relieving the existing Cauldrons or creating a false flag between R+6 and the SDF/Kurds.

  6. Lyttenburgh says:

    Meanwhile, Bulgarian journalist was fired from her newspaper after her attempts to expose SA’s and NATO’s effort to supply weapons to the not-even-remotely-moderate headchoppers in Syria like AQ/Nusra (https://www.facebook.com/dilyana.gaytandzhieva?hc_ref=ARSublNFO4zBe6ze3iWaRtKSAN6VUt5R0FBBw-auyGvMSWLKJ5Wikwxp3xep3tNCRp4&fref=nf). She’s already invited for a talk with the Bulgarian Democratic State Security. In the course of her journalistic investigation Dilyana Gaytandzhieva (https://twitter.com/dgaytandzhieva/status/900731359769001984) exposed at least Bulgarian way of delivering weapons to the terrorists. Her investigation also implicates Azerbaijani company “The Silk Way”, which has ties both to the CIA and Saudi Arabia.

  7. LeCashier says:

    Also looks like the SDF is moving south toward Deir ez Zor, on the east side of the Euphrates. I saw this on the syria.liveuamap.com. I wonder what their game plan is, and what does the R+6 think about it.

  8. johnf says:

    Elijah J Magnier on the failure of Netanyahu to gain Putin’s support. Magnier makes the point I made a few threads back that Israel’s best bet now is to make serious peace with its neighbours and Russia:
    “Therefore, the victory of the “axis of the resistance” has created a negative balance a very worried Israel. It is true that in every city ISIS is defeated: the Syrian Army, Hezbollah and Iran takes it back, creating a serious worry for Tel Aviv.
    Nevertheless, Netanyahu can’t wage open war against Hezbollah nor Syria for the following reasons:
    – Because his internal front is unprepared for a war;
    – Because the Syrian Hezbollah and similar groups have gathered, along with Hezbollah, important experiences during the war clearly manifested in the speed and effectiveness of these forces against al-Qaeda and ISIS;
    – Because Hezbollah has obtained advanced weapons (they have used some and are still hiding others); and finally
    – Because the war in the Middle East is coming to an end.
    Israel should prepare itself to adapt and live with a new reality where the two superpowers are now at its borders, that the sky in Syria and Lebanon is no longer its exclusivity, and that it is the right moment to accept the new situation and powers on its borders: the “axis of the resistance” and with it Russia.”

  9. turcopolier says:

    I would think it points to a collapse of command and control due to the elimination of more skilled commanders. pl

  10. mike says:

    Lemur is right. Tiger forces have counterattacked. They already re-liberated the strategic crossroads at Ghanem al-Ali from the Daeshis.
    Reasons for the Daesh initial limited success in that salient are:
    1] SAA had left the area to swing south.
    2] Area was defended mostly by tribal fighters. A subordinate Tiger Force commander said of them: “May God never show you soldiers like these. The utmost of randomness, chaotic and recklessness.
    3] That area has some complicated terrain features despite its location on the M4 hiway.

  11. mike says:

    Daesh is also folding quickly in Tel Afar. Iraqi forces have taken the citadel and there are reportedly just a few pockets of holdouts left.
    Where will the Iraqi Army go next? There is still Daesh in the Euphrates River valley from Haditha up to the Syrian border. And their are Daesh in the Hawija pocket.
    If they start up the Euphrates towards al-Qaim it will take a lot of pressure off of Syrian forces as they move into Deir ez-Zor province. And conversely Iraq will benefit from Syria’s advance. Hammer & Anvil?

  12. b says:

    The Iraqi army, counter terrorism forces and PMUs have now cleaned up 90% of Tal Afar within just one week.
    The recently closed most eastern ISIS pocket in Homs province seems to be empty. The SAA is taking hill after hill within it without much resistance.
    A counterattack by the Tiger force has nearly cleaned up the ISIS penetration along the Euphrates south-east of Raqqa. The villages there were held by local tribals who behaved, according to a Tiger commander, like chickens when ISIS came in.
    ISIS now is so thin in its rows that it uses a kind of swarm tactic to quickly build up groups of a hundred or so fighters at one critical point. These are no longer coherent units. Then it uses a suicide bomb to break into a front. But there is no longer a follow up of reserve forces to use and extend any penetration into a wider assault. That could be lack of command or a lack of troops. Likely both but the lack of troops may be more significant by now.
    Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are still different from the above. These large cities have 2,000 or more ISIS fighters and prepared defenses.
    But all together the ISIS military capabilities are now degrading very fast. They will probably stop the organized open fighting and go underground within the next few weeks.

  13. Peter in Toronto says:

    Your prediction was spot on. The Tiger’s have already enveloped them from the rear. Their only option is to fight their way out or dive into the Euphrates and get raked with machine gun fire.

  14. sid_finster says:

    Johnf: I hope that you are correct and that Netanyahu and the Saudis are bluffing.

  15. AMN is reporting the SAA has pretty much taken the easternmost of the two pockets. They left a corridor open so some of the IS jihadis escaped towards Deir Ezzor. Plenty of mines and IEDs are still in place so the SAA has to pick its way through those. What this shows is that these lines on the maps are not actually lines of solid troops or even mutually supporting strongpoints. There is a lot of open space between units, both SAA and IS. That’s something to keep in mind when reading about any of these battles or looking at the maps.

  16. Kooshy says:

    It, is very interesting (telling) to know that just a few days after (failed) visit of Israeli PM Netanyahu to Moscow, Russian military just announced unification of Russian and Syrian air defence forces in Syria. Does that mean no more Israeli air attack inside Syria? A few months back Russians announced no US coalition flights will be tolerated or permitted west of Euphrates, I haven’t heard any US flight took placed west of the river ever since?

  17. LeaNder says:

    ah, well yes, airlines ‘delivering weapons’ must have a longer history … Lyttenburgh.
    There seemed to be a somewhat convincing argument around a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 in the larger Nile Perch documentary. Weapons in, Fish for the European market out:
    That said you shouldn’t use a sign behind a link, no matter if comma, point, bracket or whatever you like.
    Admittedly I am avoiding both Facebook and Twitter via this link:
    And yes, strictly I wondered about Bulgaria too in the larger Syrian or here linked Southfront context.

  18. turcopolier says:

    That sounds like an ultimatum to Israel. Actually the Russians have been coordinating (accepting) US flights west of the river on a case by case basis. pl

  19. turcopolier says:

    I think you have to accept that in ground as open as that and with such vast spaces. But it is hard to hide from air and ground surveillance out there. pl

  20. Adrestia says:

    Great airraft. Il-76s are tough and resilient. Wihtout them a lot of food and arms would not be transported to the rough edges of the world.
    The remaining 2 airworthy Syrian Il-76’s have daily schedules from Damascus to Qamishli on the Turkish border and the other to Abadan in Iran on the border with Iraq.
    The Russians sometimes use them for Latakia but mostly they use the bigger An-124’s. Often with a night stop in Iran.

  21. LondonBob says:

    Robert Parry says Trump is tired Netanyahu’s constant demands. I suspect his piece is right, Trump is an America first guy who does not take well to being ordered about. Not aware of Mattis, McMaster or Kelly being pro-Israel and I can’t imagine Tillerson is either.

  22. Kooshy says:

    Thank you sir

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