Aleppo City comes next?

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The Syrian Arab Republic’s Prime Minister, Dr. Wa’el Al-Halaqi, issued a statement on Sunday, asserting that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian Air Force are preparing a large-scale offensive to liberate the provincial capital of the Aleppo Governorate from the armed groups inside. “The Russian Air Force and Syrian Army are preparing to restore security to Aleppo and Damascus; we are determined to liberate these cities from the terrorists.” Following Dr. Halaqi’s statement, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Mu’allem, confirmed the joint military operation to liberate Aleppo City.  Al-Masdar News

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-russian-air-force-prepare-liberate-aleppo-syrian-fm/ | Al-Masdar News

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The general anticipation after the capture of Palmyra/Tadmur was that the R+6 forces would continue to make their main effort to the east along the line of operations Palmyra-Sukhna-Deir az-Zor and then approaching Raqqa from the south, southeast and perhaps west as well.

But then the Syrian Marine Regiment was transferred back to northern Lattakia Governorate where it is positioned near Jisr-ash-Shugur on the Lattakia/Idlib border. 

To add to the complexity of the analytic problem, the SAA Tiger Forces armored brigade has been moved back into eastern Aleppo City where it was thought that it would take part in a de facto combined operation with YPG/SDF Kurdish forces by advancing into the Al-Bab area while the Kurds move west to the Manbij area.  The objective of this combined move would, of course, be to interdict the most important IS LOC to their allies in Erdogan's Turkey. 

But…  Now we have these pronouncements from Damascus that state baldly that the next major objective will be the re-capture of the rebel held parts of Aleppo City.  Well, pilgrims, as I have observed before the SAA's numbers are quite limited and militia allies are not of the same value as regular troops.  at the same time air superiority can only do so much to compensate for a shortage of ground troops.  This is so because humans live on the ground and a country consists of its territory and population, not its air space.

So, how to account for these somewhat conflicting indications?  Well, perhaps these seeming inconsistencies result from ongoing deliberations in Damascus as to the direction of "strategery," especially taking into consideration the diplomatic situation and the continuing US mania for regime change.  OTOH, perhaps a certain natural Levantine trickiness has combined with Russian teaching of maskirovka to produce an ability to produce effective OPSEC.

We will see.  pl

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31 Responses to Aleppo City comes next?

  1. b says:

    It is not clear to me that al-Qaeda held parts of Aleppo *city* are the target now. The troops positioning would also allow for an Aleppo governate campaign west of Aleppo city. I find this more likely.
    As I wrote in earlier thread – the breaking of the ceasefire by U.S. supported “rebels” at Tal al-Eis led to a change of plans. The eastern campaign was put on hold to set the minds of those “rebels” straight so that they agree to the next ceasefire.
    There is massive air and artillery preparation now ongoing to break out of the southern Aleppo countryside towards west and to chase those “rebels” their towards the border. One target would be to liberate the besieged Fu’ah and Kafarya in north-western Idleb governate.
    Then again maskirovka is certainly something we have seen several times during this campaign.

  2. Barish says:

    Pronouncing different objectives than those actually pursued would be one plausible goal here, true.
    On the other hand, the foreign sponsored foot-soldiers of regime change recently made quite a bit of noise that they consider the cessation done and over with around Aleppo city, particularly Sheikh Maqsoud-district to the north as well as the territories they lost to SAA and allies to the south and southwest of the city late last year. Several days ago, the lot claimed the capture of Tal al-Eis, their gains at Khalidiyah further north apparently were reversed in the last 24 hours.
    Meanwhile, at the same source, this was reported lately:
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/rebels-reverse-syrian-army-gains-handarat-camp/
    “The Syrian Armed Forces were able to accomplish their objective, which was to alleviate the pressure applied by the extremist rebels on the predominately Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud District of Aleppo City.”
    A limited objective, achieved right at that narrow space that still leads the insurgents’ supply line directly into the eastern parts of central Aleppo city. Might have been probing as well for locking shut said insurgent-held parts, just as you, Sir, suggested several weeks back.
    The Tigers have been credited in recent months for getting things done that they are tasked with, from lifting the siege maintained by ISIL on Kuweires air-base to clearing out the ISIL-held territory in between that base and Aleppo city, as well as reestablishing full control of the Khanasser-route and participating in the successful liberation of Palmyra. Maybe cutting off the insurgents’ LOC to Aleppo city centre is next now.
    After all, as I mentioned, even if the unicorn-crews start screeching about “humanitarian disaster” etc. etc., the continued show of bad faith particularly on their part simply can’t be ignored upon more thorough scrutiny. Which doesn’t just entail them continuing to rub shoulders with Nusra, which remarkably enough even State Dept discouraged them to do, but also the renewed offensive actions they partook in which I mentioned.

  3. Trey N says:

    Could all this be tied in somehow with the rearming of the liver-eaters during the truce and Erdogan’s recent snub in DC? Maybe new facts on the ground have caused a rethink of the planned strategy to continue the drive on Raqqa.

  4. Liza says:

    Col. Lang:
    A number of internet sites Haverford reported the deployment of additional Iranian forces in anticipation of the operation in Aleppo. I am not familiar with any of these sites, and therefore cannot gauge their accuracy, but I’ve linked to one report from Al Masdar as an example.
    My impression from the news reports that I’ve read had been that Iranian forces, Hezbollah and SAA units under the command of Gen. Suleimani were handling operations in Aleppo. The last media reports on Suleimani showed
    him directing operations in Aleppo province.
    I’d really appreciate it if you or one of the other analysts on SST could comment on what is known about IRG operations in Syria, albeit this might be more appropriately done in a separate post.
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/iranian-special-forces-arrive-aleppo/

  5. Haralambos says:

    Off-topic on this thread but of possible interest to those thinking about the borg: http://tinyurl.com/jbojryo

  6. Bill Herschel says:

    Off topic. I believe Bugs Bunny pronounced that “stragedy”: http://dai.ly/x2snj1s

  7. cynic says:

    Interior lines? Here’s a report of lots of fried or roasted rats on the Syrian menu, with an amusing cartoon of Assad and ‘Dave’ at the bottom.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Bill Herschel
    The GW Bush character on SNL said “strategery.” pl

  9. SmoothieX12 says:

    Favorite term in my household. Will Ferrel’s way of saying this–what a comedic genius.

  10. Seamus says:

    The strategy seems to be to stop Turkey and the Saudis from interfering with a settlement once and for all. I’d expect all of Aleppo to be under Syrian Govt. control by the end if April if things go to plan.

  11. Seamus says:

    Off topic but intimately related.
    Neocons Ukrainian darling “Yats” falls:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-prime-minister-arseniy-yatsenyuk-resigns-a6977421.html

  12. Mark Logan says:

    My WAG is a fully liberated Aleppo is viewed as potential source of new recruits. Chicken and the egg, I suppose, and it would require a judgement that an operation by IS to re-claim what they lost on the Palmyra front is at least not feared, and probably hoped for…They need men and every man not enlisted is a potential fighter for IS and the liver eaters.

  13. Bandolero says:

    Liza
    To the best of what I know. As is to see in reports about martyrs a number of volunteers from the axis of resistance including soldiers and officers “on leave” and “pensioners” from IRGC and IRGC Qods force are fighting at Aleppo fronts. While the official IRGC banner is not – or very rarely – used in Syria I’ld expect them to be concentrated under the banners of Hezbollah and Quds brigade.
    AFAIK Qasem Suleimani is not in Aleppo because he’s deemed to be too valuable for Iran to be allowed to seek martyrdom in Syria. Pics I’ve seen showing him at Aleppo fronts were fake. Today Qasem Suleimani seems to have been seen simultaneously at the fronts in Aleppo and with Sayed Khamenei in Tehran.

  14. Bill Herschel says:

    Much as I like SNL, I’ll take Mel Blanc.

  15. Bill Herschel says:

    And now we have this. The United States is Israel’s proxy. It is that simple. It is neither good nor bad, simply true. Of course, the metric to judge it by is, Does it work? Time will tell. So far the results are mixed.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/opinion/international/israels-unsung-protector-obama.html

  16. bth says:

    I haven’t seen a first hand report on Suleimani for weeks. I got the imporession recently that regular Iranian army forces were being rotated into Syria and the IRG might be being rotated out. Again very little first hand information.

  17. Poul says:

    Is the replacement of fixed-wing assault aircrafts with helicopters a sign of urban battle ahead? The high-precision weapons of helicopters replaces the 1,000 & 2,000 lb bombs. The results are the same but with less destruction.
    http://russia-insider.com/en/su-25-attack-helicopters/ri13814

  18. Ghost ship says:

    From what I can make out most of the population of eastern Aleppo moved to western Aleppo when the jihadists moved in so there are unlikely to be many suitable recruits for the SAA n eastern Aleppo. Figres I have seen in various places suggest there are about 40,000 people in eastern Aleppo and about 2,000,000 in western Aleppo. The advantage to be gained of liquidating the jihadists in eastern Aleppo is probably to do with increased security with reduced manpower from shortening the front line and pushing potential infiltrators away from Aleppo.

  19. Ghost ship says:

    More problematic are the security guarantees it provides to Turkey – imagine the number of times “red line” would be mentioned if Syria or Russia started counter-battery fire against the Turkish deployments along the Syrian border. Whatever happened to the concept of “hot pursuit”?
    Similarly for Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. In any balanced international order, the targets of their funding of terrorists, such as Syria or Iraq would be free to respond with acts of “self defence”. But currently, the United States would not allow it.

  20. Tigermoth says:

    Why the B-52s now?
    http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2016/04/09/b-52s-arrive-qatar-join-isis-bombing-campaign/82829600/
    U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Saturday joining Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led campaign against the Islamic State group.
    The deployment marks the first time the Air Force will use the Cold War-era warplanes — from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana — in the counter-ISIS fight in Iraq and Syria. The service did not disclose the exact number of bombers it deployed.
    “The B-52 will provide the coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component, said in a release.
    “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the coalition team.”
    In comparison to the Russian Airforce the US Coalition was under utilised. Are B-52’s going to make any difference if the are used in the same manner?
    In an interview with a retired senior Russian officer from the Afgan era; he commented that an Army was like an orchestra in which individual instruments had a part to play but couldn’t play the whole symphony. He also said that like a good conductor, can who can produce a beautiful symphony out of all the individual players, so the good general does the same in battle.
    What other players are the B-52’s going to play “beautiful music” with?

  21. turcopolier says:

    tigermoth
    Think of fighters and these bombers as flying artillery. Unless you have seen the amount of devastation just one of these particular aircraft can deliver you can’t really grasp the effect.. If we seriously are going to try to get the Iraqi (Shia)Army to go to Mosul it will have to be across what Bonaparte would have called a “bridge of fire.” pl

  22. kooshy says:

    Liz, I think the news about Iranian Army’ Special Forces (green beret) is correct , Fars News is reporting their first martyr in Syria. The news link is in Persian. It says he was martyred defending the holly shrine.
    http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13950123000244

  23. Barish says:

    What’s the read-out of the following kind of reporting on the ceasefire by AFP? That title in particular…
    http://www.afp.com/en/news/russia-muscles-centre-peace-drive-ground-syria
    “Russia muscles into centre of peace drive on ground in Syria
    11 APR 2016
    Two elderly men in chequered headdresses, a Syrian army officer and a Russian colonel sat at a plastic table by a desert road signing sheets of paper.
    “In the name of Allah the most merciful” read a Russian translation of the agreement, with the title “Application form to join the cessation of hostilities” printed across the top.
    The ceremony — performed on Saturday in front of the cameras of journalists on a Russian army press tour — appeared to see the village of Al-Nasriya, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of Damascus, become the latest location in Syria to have a local truce agreed between government and opposition groups.
    In September, Russia launched a massive military campaign to support long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad.
    Since then, Moscow has mediated several local truces. Along with Washington, it also brokered a ceasefire for the whole country, which has largely held since coming into force on February 27.
    […]
    – ‘Russia’s focus is peace’ –
    But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said separately that a truce deal was meant to be signed in the area where army positions are some three kilometres from civilian areas.
    “I’d like very much to talk about the situation here but they won’t let me,” one local man said hurriedly in halting Russian, gesturing towards a Kalashnikov-wielding Syrian soldier who then escorted him away from journalists.
    A rebel group in the area — which the Russian military said attacked a Syrian army base nearby a few days earlier — does not appear to have signed up to the ceasefire.
    Some seven weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin hammered out the truce deal with US President Barack Obama and four weeks since he ordered a partial withdrawal from Syria, Moscow has positioned itself as the key peacemaker on the ground in the war-torn country.”
    The episode on the “local man” starting to talk up in “halting Russian” sounds particularly fictitious to me. Why speak up in “halting Russian” and not Arabic, as one would assume a local here to use first and foremost, and how come this “halting Russian” still comes out as clear and rather complex as suggested?
    I am generally getting the impression that whoever AFP sent on this trip is trying their hardest to remain fully in denial of what they see in front of them: Russkies getting to work, on the ground, to continue promoting and advancing the ceasefire, one place at a time. The piece itself towards the end has this here to say about the American side of things:
    “Working in coordination with a parallel American centre based 400 kilometres away in the Jordanian capital Amman, Russian forces at Moscow’s Hmeimim air base say they receive calls and information tipping them off about new truce breaches.
    Every day they release a tally of the violations — one day four incidents, another five — almost uniformly blamed on rebel groups and not government forces.
    Over the past week their warnings have grown louder about rising violence around Aleppo where they say Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra — which like IS is not covered by the ceasefire — has subsumed rebel groups in areas the US insists are off-limits to bombing.”
    So the “American centre” is staying put outside of the country in Amman rather than try and broker ceasefires in Syria as the Russians do. Did the Americans at least muster the excuse somewhere that Damascus wouldn’t let them enter the country or some such?
    Further, it’s not particularly surprising that said “rebel groups”, whose command structure is decentralized on purpose would be more prone to violate the ceasefire than the more centrally organized government troops. The piece itself even states before that, in one case, one “local group” hasn’t even joined up the ceasefire.

  24. aleksandar says:

    – Syrian general staff has came to the conclusion that Deir az-Zor is not in danger, ISIS attacks have been repelled and numbers are steadily decreasing. The Mad Druze,Major General Issaam ZHAHREDDEEN had set up a multi- layered defence that has proven so far very effective.
    -I respectfuly disagree about SAA lack of manpower. ISIS was evaluated to about 40 000 fighters.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they have already lost 1/4 or 1/3 of them due to Ruaf bombing.
    The same about JAN.
    IMO attrition has already change the syrian war. I have read somewhere that Russian advisers have explained Syrian officers how to retreat and when. No more losses of manpower and equipments. Keep your military assets afloat and prepare counter attacks.
    – Back in the beginning of 2015, SAA has to split its forces on different fronts facing a highly mobile enemy. I guess today that ISIS, and in some way, JAN face the same problem, too much territories to control them properly.
    – The part of Alepo city under control of rebels is quite empty. Clearing it will take time as urban warfare is something very difficult ,a waste of manpower and ammunitions.IMO it isn’t worth it.Can be done later.
    – R+6 troops are said to be deployed southwest of Aleppo, in this zone the main objective could be to retake Highway 5. Maybe
    Stay tuned…

  25. turcopolier says:

    aleksandr
    R+6 is fighting a much larger force than IS. Russian advice has been effective. Do not make the mistake of thinking it is infallible. pl

  26. turcopolier says:

    Aleksandr + SmoothieX12
    1- The question with regard to the adequacy of SAA plus ground allies is not one of available units. It is one of number and quality of maneuver units available. Carefully built units like the Tiger Forces and the Syrian Marine Regiment are sensitive to strength losses in combat and can be expended as useful tools if over used. 2 – One or the other of you made a disparaging comment about the capability of US forces. I remind you that governments can commit forces to long term combat within the limits of restrictions on options that preclude victory. 3 – I followed the unfortunate Soviet defeat in Afghanistan closely because my people in DIA were doing all the detailed work that the CIA lacked the military skill to provide ISI. That included targeting that ended in the hands of the mujahideen (non Abu Sayyaf). It was clear that Soviet 40th Army performed very badly with the exception of some battalions that had raised from Spetznaz cadres. Soviet logistics worked really poorly. Troops starved in the field and were not well supllied. Routine tasks were badly performed. Seveal ammunition dumps were blown up by mujahideen. This does not happen to a first rate army. My people did the targeting on the ammunition dumps. Officer-soldier relations were terrible. Conscripts were routinely physically abused and a number attempted to desert the mujahideen where they were treated equally badly. I can only say that I am happy to learn that the Russian Army is not like that of the USSR. pl

  27. Ghost ship says:

    You could be right – RT is reporting that 10,000 Jabhat al-Nusra liver eaters have arrived around Aleppo to surround and cut it off. The Jabhat al-Nusra soldiers seem to have passed unmolested through territory held by US-backed “moderates” and Russia is claimng that Turkey is involved.
    https://www.rt.com/news/339244-syria-aleppo-blocked-militaints/
    Seems like the United States can not be trusted when it comes to agreements it’s signed, but we knew that anyway as was seen recently with the reprocessing of plutonium agreement.
    http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/politics/2016/04/08/vladimir-putin-says-mox-shutdown-breaches-us-russia-deal/82802598/

  28. ThomasG says:

    Col. Lang
    As regards the Soviet performance in Afghanistan, would you say that had to do with the quality of the specific formations involved or was it due to doctrinal problems or even some sort of fundamental problem with the Soviet military itself?

  29. turcopolier says:

    ThomasG There others here far more qualified than I to judge the quality of units in 40th Army relative to those in other major soviet era formations like GSFG. I can only judge from 40th Army’s performance in Afghanistan which I would judge to be mediocre at best. The present Russian army and air force are obviously greatly improved. The expeditionary presence in Syria is small but it has been well run and the quality of the counsel being given to the Syrians is outstanding. pl

  30. ThomasG,
    Hope PL won’t mind me joining the discussion on this topic, even though the question was addressed to him.
    Regarding Afghanistan, the Soviet Army was poorly “equipped” to deal with something of this magnitude in several regards:
    – on a doctrinal level: the Soviets had never fought a guerilla war previously, other than on the side of the guerilla force. The whole doctrinal component necessary to shape strategy and tactics on the ground was flawed by their belief in a modelisation of the coming operations that vastly underestimated key components of the war (deep social divide within Afghan society, resilience and fighting spirit of the Afghan Mujahideen, Western/Pakistani/Saudi efforts to fund, train and equip the Mujahideen), while overestimating their own capabilities to deal with an insurrection.
    – on the operational level: adjustments to the way operations were conducted was slow and often hampered by Soviet style red-tape. AAR focusing on operational shortcomings often never reached their intended addressee. Once tactical and operational changes were implemented, in particular the use aero-mobile infantry units combined with conventional type ground formations, it was already too late as the momentum had definitely shifted sides. In this regard, it may be worth mentioning that the supply of the Mjahideen with Stinger MANPADs also played a decisive role in neutralizing tactical Soviet gains.
    – on a psychological level: motivation was poor among the Soviet army and the model of a conscript army fighting a expeditionary war (in a region nobody among the populace in the USSR considered a vital security interest) had devastating effects on the proficiency of the forces involved.
    – on a strategic level: the whole idea of invading Afghanistan will go down in history as one of the worst ever strategic decisions a great power has taken. This decision alone bears testimony to the already huge disconnect there was at the time between the Politburo and the “real world”. No doubt, those advisers of Brejnew had no clue about Afghan social structures, geography, religious, historic and ethnic fabric, which taken together, should have been a warning to any invading superpower …

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