A Soldier’s Tour of Syria – TTG


Overall things are going quite well for the R+6. Although the IS and other jihadi forces are still capable of staging limited tactical offensive operations, any gains they make are short lived.


In southwest Raqqa governorate, General Suheil al-Hassan has stated that his Tiger Forces will be in Deir Ezzor by the beginning of September. They are battling for several towns along the Euphrates along with local tribal forces and are aiming to soon take Ma’adan. A few days ago IS launched a counterattack in this area preceded by ten plus VBIED attacks. Suheil and his allies suffered close to forty dead and fifty wounded, but by the end of the day they retook what little ground they lost and continued the advance. A Tiger Force commander described Jihadi losses thusly, “ISIS losses are folds of ours.”

This Tiger Force offensive is also widening the front away from the Euphrates and now occupies a growing section of the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor border. They are poised to attack at both Ma’adan and at the critical road junction in the Bishri Triangle.


Further west a new R+6 offensive is taking place south of Ithriyah. The Cheetah Group of the Tiger Forces has been redeployed from the southeast Raqqa front to serve as the core of this new offensive along with Liwaa Al-Quds, Qalamoun Shield, the 11th Tank Division and elements of the NDF and SSNP. The goal of this offensive is to drive south towards Suknah to isolate the jihadis entrenched in the Uqayribat region in eastern Hama. These jihadists are at the western end of a large bulge in central Syria aimed at Homs and Hama. A quick glance at the above map shows the significance of this bulge. The R+6 has also launched an offensive from Salamiyah towards Uqayribat.


I assess the plan is to reduce the Uqayribat bulge before the Tiger Forces offensive from southwest Raqqa drives to Deir Ezzor. The dual offensive drives into the bulge will either force the jihadis to die in place, pull back towards the Euphrates or be fixed in place to the point they are incapable of any offensive action. The southwest Raqqa offensive will simultaneously take Ma’adan and the Bishri Triangle. They will then be in position to launch a wide offensive from Ma’adan to Deir Ezzor and from the Bishri Triangle to Ash Sholah and on to Deir Ezzor once the Uqayribat bulge is addressed.

R+6 forces are also at the gates of Suknah with every intention of taking it soon. Once Suknah falls, there is nothing but open desert between the R+6 forces and Deir Ezzor. However, the jihadis know this as well. My guess is that they have prepared some kind of defensive lines between Suknah and Deir Ezzor.


The defenders of Deir Ezzor itself have received some relief. Reinforcements and supplies have been flown in from Qamishli. General Zahreddine also noted that some jihadis have pulled out to reinforce their defenses against the Tigers from the north. This has allowed the Deir Ezzor defenders to undertake their own offensive actions. Using a jihadi tactic, they dug a tunnel, mined it and blew up one of the jihadi supply lines into the cemetery area. Zahreddine himself led elements of the 104th Airborne Brigade in a successful immediate assault on the area. He’s one bad mamma jamma.

In the south, SAA and Hezbollah units along with their foreign militia allies are still aiming for T2 and Bukamal. A night laager near T2 suffered casualties and lost a tank last week from a surprise night attack from the jihadis. As beleagered as they are, IS can still bite.


In Al-Tanf, the US is preparing to abandon their positions. They have called for their “moderate jihadists” to turn in their heavy weapons. Without this support, two jihadist groups have already switched to the SAA side. Without US and Jordanian support, the rest of these groups will not last long. 

In the southwest corner of Syria in the declared truce zone, Russia has deployed 400 troops as peacekeepers in the Dara’a and Quneitra governates. It is not clear if these are newly deployed military police or elements of the previously deployed 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade, a unit specially trained in peacekeeping operations. Whoever they are, I don’t think it is an accident that they will be deployed the Golan Heights.


Moving further north to the Syrian-Lebanese border, Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army have just completed a week long operation to capture Arsal and defeat the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadis. Most of those jihadis, around 9,000 including families, will be bussed up to Idlib where they can go fight their fellow jihadis for now.

Of special note is an operation to be carried out by the Lebanese Army in this same area, Ras Balbaak, to rid the Lebanese border region of IS jihadis. I do not know how much assistance Hezbollah will provide to their Lebanese brethren. This will be a serious test for the Lebanese Army. 

There is more going on militarily in Syria, but this is all I’ll cover this time. But just as important is the political success of the R+6. Russia, Syria and Jordan have been in negotiations for a long time to end Coalition support of jihadis along the Syrian-Jordanian border and establish a ceasefire. This has been accomplished with dramatic results. I think the presence of the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade in this area gave pause to Amman. The Americans are part of this ceasefire, but I think they just went along with the inevitability of the developing R+6-Jordanian detente. This  leaves the Israelis with a puzzlement.

The Russian-Turkish relationship deserves a posting of its own. All I will say now is that I have a feeling Russia is in the process of taming Turkey. They can still be bit, but the domestication process is underway. Time will tell.


This entry was posted in Jordan, Russia, Syria, The Military Art, TTG. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to A Soldier’s Tour of Syria – TTG

  1. mike says:

    TTG –
    Your graphic #6 is a doctored copy. The original photo shown on 30 June by Hammurabi Justice twitter account shows that technical next to the US vehicle as being manned by fighters from ‘Maghawir al-Thawra’. That group, or many of them, defected to the SAA just within the last few days.
    No way I would believe that US troops are providing support and backup for al Quaida.

  2. mike,
    I never thought it was actual Al Qaeda. I figured someone was just taking the “a jihadi is a jihadi” idea to it’s logical, and perhaps extreme, conclusion. Maghawir al-Thawra makes perfect sense.

  3. Jack says:

    TTG, Sir
    Thank you for this excellent comprehensive report on the war in Syria. I really look forward to your military analysis of the Syrian war..
    It seems the R+6 are slowly grinding their way through the eastern desert. Unlike a more traditional army it seems that ISIS forces don’t surrender. They fight until they’re killed. What tactics can R+6 deploy to mitigate the loss of life by VBIEDs?
    On the other hand the AQ jihadis seem to work out a deal to head to Idlib. Two questions: Why aren’t the AQ jihadis not creating another battle front to ease the pressure on ISIS forces in the eastern desert? Is the battle of Idlib gonna be the most nasty battle in this long war?

  4. Peter AU says:

    Most jihadi groups in Syria have fought alongside of and aided AQ even though they have not sworn allegiance to AQ. It is some time since I read the UN AQ designated terrorist list, but there is a good section in it about those who aid designated terrorist organisations and individuals.
    In Syria the US has been aiding those who are aiding al Qaeda.

  5. b says:

    Thanks TTG for the overview.
    Word is that Tanf will now be closed down. The U.S. claimed that the rebel forces there declined to fight only ISIS and wanted to continue to fight the government. That was a lie. Those forced did not agree to be flown to Shadadi in the north-east to fight under Kurdish command. They now joined the government.
    The U.S. plans seems to be to build a force in Shadadi to race the Syrian army in an assault on Mayadin at the Euphrates. This move would capture some significant north-eastern oil resources still in the hand of ISIS. Very significant amounts U.S. equipment keeps flowing into the north eastern area. To preempt that Syria will probably need help from Iraq.

  6. ZH claims that the President pulled support for anti-Assad rebels in the South after finding out they had been committing Jihadi-style atrocities. Bit late in the day to find that out, I’d have thought, but if this claim is true does it indicate the the President has not been getting accurate information from his staff?

  7. Jack,
    The Tiger Forces developed tactics to specifically deal with those tactics employed by the IS fighters including the use of VBIEDs, ATGMs and such. The Tigers organized special teams to spot and deal with these threats. I remember reading an article describing this months ago and found it again fairly easily.
    The various jihadis in Idlib seem to be too busy fighting among themselves at the moment. I think this was the R+6 plan all along. During the last war game I suggested that spetsnaz teams be used to conduct sabotage and assassinations in order to encourage this infighting. Perhaps the R+6 is doing this.

  8. Matthew says:

    TTG: Fascinating analysis as usual.
    I literally returned from Turkey and Jordan this week. From speaking to some locals, I got the real sense that they are fatigued. Basically, neither Turks nor Jordanians want to fight to advance the interests of SA/Israel/USA against “the Iranians.”
    Of some local note, parts of Jordan experienced unrest following the conviction of the Jordanian soldier who shot the 3 GB’s. Smart decision to release the video. Lots of fake stories were circulating. The video clarified the matter.

  9. Fred says:

    An interesting possibility with Idlib province. I don’t think that in the long term ISIS will self destruct there. From the map it is very visible as a malignancy that needs to be excised.

  10. mike says:

    TTG –
    Although the other FSA group near al Tanf, Shuhada al-Qaryatayn, has refused to stop fighting against Assad. Their spokesman claims the US threatened to bomb our HQ after they attacked the government at al-Ghorab and al-Halba. They have refused to return arms to the Coalition “and will continue to use them against the Syrian regime”.

  11. mike says:

    Peter –
    CIA stupidity in backing weak sisters who could not stand up against Nusra et al.

  12. mike says:

    Suheil al Hassan for President?

  13. turcopolier says:

    Talk like that is apt to get him killed or exiled. pl

  14. Nightsticker says:

    Very much enjoy your periodic war
    I think when future military analysts
    and historians write about this war in
    Syria that they are going to write a lot
    about the “Reconciliation Operations” and
    how they were an integral part of the SAA
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  15. Grazhdanochka says:

    With due respect, I doubt it is necessary.
    Russian Experience in Chechnya and other Areas is that these type Groups turn on each other by their own Internal Forces as it is, no need to risk People generally speaking. (It could happen certainly but not necessarily Important)
    Certainly throwing the different Contingents into the same Pot and leaving them to fight each other can be considered a Planned Idea but it requires no real Special Missions to ferment.
    As to dealing with ISIS SVBIED, importance is visibility, a problem is to what I understand (I only did Reservist Training!) many ATGM are not built to necessarily match the movement/speed of many Cars when they go somewhat ‘Zigzag’….
    I do not know about other Audiences, but for Russians many of us we saw Video – Syrian Troops, Tanks etc running as SVBIED attacked, and a lone Russian Soldier with Rifle shooting back before Impact…
    I do not mean it to condemn these Men, but as to mean Motivations obviously differ

  16. Jack says:

    TTG, Sir
    What do you think about suicide attacks and soldiers committed to die as military tactics? I recall reading about the Japanese kamikaze pilots but that was when the Japanese military was already falling apart.
    Is the ideological commitment so strong that soldiers are willing to fight to their death? How does such a force get replenished? It would seem this is a wasteful expenditure of highly trained and motivated manpower.
    I read that as ISIS is retreating from the western Euphrates villages they leave behind 20+ fighters whose sole purpose is to exact maximum damage to the SAA forces and die in the process.

  17. Jack,
    It would not be uncommon for soldiers to be willing to face extreme risks of death to fulfill their duty. This is different from deliberately sacrificing oneself to fulfill a mission, but only slightly. It’s what soldiers do in time of war… not all soldiers, but enough. I find this normal. I was comfortable with the possibility that I could have died young leaving my young sons without a father. I could not bear living to a ripe old age with my sons bearing the burden and ignominy of knowing their father was a coward. That’s the way I was raised. Addressing this question fully would require far more than this comment.
    For those 20+ IS fighters left to fight to the death in those Euphrates villages, it sounds like a DLIC mission (detachment left in contact). Just a bit more intense than most.

  18. Anna says:

    The ziocons are in charge:
    “Sanctions are imposed against Russian financial institutions and their employees who interact with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The assets of such individuals will be frozen, the current US visas canceled, and entry into the US is forbidden.” http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/08/trump-signs-anti-russian-sanctions-bill.html
    A sovereign Syria is anathema for Israel. The Israel-firsters would better murder each and every child in Syria (with the US weaponry in the ISIS/Al Qaeda hands) than part with the Golan Heights.

  19. DH says:

    Unless there’s a tacit agreement among the big powers to divvy up Syria, I don’t think Russia would let that stand.

  20. Bill Herschel says:

    “What do you think about suicide attacks and soldiers committed to die as military tactics?”
    I think this is going to become moot very rapidly. The VBIED’s are either very smart or very stupid drones depending on your point of view. Retrofitting obsolete tanks with very elementary remote controlled autopilot would probably be the way to go.

  21. dilbert dogbert says:

    It will be interesting to read Col. Lang’s thoughts on this:

  22. Kooshy says:

    Iranian sites report first buildings in al Suknneh (I think it means settlement) has been taken by SAA

  23. Kooshy says:

    Fars news quoting the MI6 propaganda shop the 0bservatory for HR says SAA now has freed 20% od Al Suknnh

  24. Cortes says:

    Fisk’s “sitrep” on infighting amongst the jihadis and potential fallout for the Kurds:

  25. Castellio says:

    The short answer is no, the President does not receive accurate information. This is an essential part of the problem: the staff have been hand-picked and placed precisely for their subservience to neo-con world views.
    This issue came to a head with Chas Freeman: was the right man going to get the job daily briefing the (past) President, or the neo-con plant?
    In many ways, this IS the battle, how to place people in State, Treasury, Justice, the White House, who are open to social/political alternatives and not beholden to the usual AIPAC crowd, and to have enough of such employees that they can grow into their more senior positions.
    This situation did not happen overnight.

  26. mike says:

    Colonel –
    You are right. The Assad family does not stand for ambitious people, particularly if they are military officers.
    But even so LeMonde said two years ago: “Unverifiable rumors spread by the Arab press present the “Tiger” as the candidate Russians and Iranians prefer, with a view towards political transition.” And he is already a cult hero within Assad’s Alawite base and with many other Syrians, both Sunni and Christian. Reportedly he is famous on Syrian Facebook and Twitter and other social media.
    A former Syrian AF and former colleague of al Hassan, LtCol Bayoush, is quoted as saying: “Suhail will finish the dirty work and then be taken out”. It will be interesting to see how that could be done without infuriating the Tiger’s troops and his many fans.

  27. Castellio says:

    That is my point. But the issue is not simply at the apex of positions, nor is it of recent origin.

  28. alaric says:

    I hope that the Assad coalition will win and retain Syria as a single nation (so no Kurd state) and i think it would be wonderful if someone were to publish a good, and detailed book about the military campaign that occurred there. That would be much appreciated.

  29. Thirdeye says:

    Couple of interesting things from Al Masdar since yesterday. A source with the Tiger Force has more or less confirmed TTG’s assessment that the pace of their thrust towards Deir Ezzor will be slower until the eastern Hama operations are complete, allowing more concentration of force. ISIS has been posting leaflets calling upon all males 20 to 30 years of age to show up for training with ISIS within a week, or else get press-ganged to go to the front lines. That desperation move seems to be begging for mutiny.
    The ISIS position at Al Suknah is looking untenable as SAA is establishing control over Jebel Tuntur, a prominent hill overlooking Al Suknah from the west. From the pace of progress at Al Suknah, it seems that the way to Deir Ezzor through Al Suknah will be cleared before the other routes. The big question is whether SAA would want to bear down on Deir Ezzor from several directions or settle for one thrust from the south. In favor of the single thrust would be the apparent weakness of ISIS at Deir Ezzor, which has actually passed the initiative to the surrounded SAA forces, and the opportunity to turn that pocket into a spearhead.

  30. turcopolier says:

    Dilbert Dogbert
    A neocon operative like DH. This dismissal is long overdue. pl

  31. turcopolier says:

    LeMonde doesn’t pick leaders in Syria. pl

  32. mike says:

    Colonel –
    Agreed. But then that LeMonde article was not pushing for al Hassan. They said the claim was based on unspecified and unverifiable Arab press reports that al Hassan was the first choice of the Russians and the Iranians.
    Of course they could have been floating a strawman, made up for them by the Palais de l’Élysée. I have no clues on the French press.

  33. mike says:

    TTG –
    CJTF-OIR spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon mentioned in this mornings weekly briefing that Shuhada al-Qaryatayn had declined to fight only against Daesh. So their heavy weapons were taken away, although they were allowed to keep their small arms and Toyotas. He claimed the coalition and some Arab militiamen (are still in and around al Tanf. Did not say what group they were. My speculation is perhaps those are remnants of Maghawir al-Thawra that have not yet gone over to the regime?? support, he directed reporters to check with Langley.
    He was also pressed by reporters about a potential offensive against Mayadin. Claimed they were right now focused on Raqqa, but were continuing airstrikes against Daesh targets throughout the Euphrates Valley – to include Mayadin, al Bukamal, and the Daeshi areas just outside of Deir ez-Zor.
    I did not hear the entire brief. Had to be SWMBO’s chauffeur so turned it off halfway through. They will probably post a rerun on DVIDS or youtube in a day or so.

  34. Lyttenburgh says:

    “(I only did Reservist Training!)”
    Pardon me for asking, but I was of opinion (based on your nikname – “Citizeness”) that you are a woman. Was I wrong?
    Also – what branch of the forces?

  35. Lyttenburgh says:

    “The various jihadis in Idlib seem to be too busy fighting among themselves at the moment.”
    Here’s a RuPosters article (https://ruposters.ru/news/03-08-2017/kak-stroyat-emirat), which offers the rundown of the current status and relations of the major (remaining) bands in Indlib.
    Short version:
    – Former al Nusra (I will just keep calling it “al Nusra” or “local AQ”) dealt with their chief rival – Ahrar al Sham, who had to abandon the province. Seeing, that now there is absolutely no chance for the moderates/unicorns to conquer Idlib for them, State Dept representative Mike Ratney called it “a tragedy”.
    – The population of Idlib is c. 2+ millions, half of them – refugees.
    – You can’t read the backstory of al Nusra’s, Ahrar al Sham’s and FSA’s conflict without laughing. I couldn’t.
    – Former al Nusra’s chief goals are the international recognition ( they get plenty of that – they are recognized internationally as the terrorists) and hostile takeover of other bands and gangs in the region (a true success here). Another overall goal – to work on their PR and try to improve their reputation, get over controversies. They are still blamed by other jihadis for the surrender of Aleppo. Besides the current leader of this AQ offshoot came from Ahrar al Sham, which makes his position within the group rather shaky.
    – As for the here and now and political building – AQ is building “sharia emirate” in their portions of Idlib (that’s about half of the province). Standard stuff – taking over local administrations in towns and villages, monopolization of the utilities services, collection of “taxes” (road tolls – and fights between gangs for control of the whole stretch of the road). Meanwhile – local business is all but non existence, fragmentation of control and gangs warfare make it too costly for the shipping of goods, therefore Idlib is more than other province depends on humanitarian aid – which distribution, again, is another venue for jihadi groups to further their power.
    – Local AQ might fancy itself as 19 c. Prussian, trying to unite the province “by steel and blood”… only they manage to accomplish so far “step forward, two steps back”.
    – The article ends with a speculation (the author admits it) of the possible Turkish invasion of the province. Right now former al Nusra controls most of Syrian-Turkish border which looks… not nice (given Turkish support for non Kurdish elements in the FSA and of Ahrar al Sham). Taking northern Idlib would flank Kurdish held Afrin (which is already threatened from the south by pro-Turkish jihadis in Aleppo province).

  36. The Beaver says:

    WRT Turkey
    An edifying article on Turkey , The Sultan , his former PM and regime change in Syria:
    Propelled by hubris & misplaced ambition & guided by wrong assumptions Ankara rushed to ensure fall of Assad

  37. Thirdeye says:

    The ISIS position at Al Suknah has been broken. That happened shortly after SAA established full control of Jebel Tuntur and started attacking from the northwest in addition to the south and east. SAA is not claiming full control of the town yet, but they are reporting collapse if ISIS after a tough battle.

  38. mike says:

    Thirdeye –
    Reuters is reporting it also. They are sourcing it to various sources: SOHR, Hezbollah media, and Syria’s official news agency SANA

  39. mike says:

    PA –
    Perhaps you are right.
    It will be interesting at some point in the future after the country stabilizes a bit to find out what happens to al-Hassan. Will he become Minister of Defense – or will he perish in a mysterious helicopter crash.

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