Things have been going swimmingly for the SAA for the last couple of weeks. Initial SAA operations were characterized by slow going with jihadi counterattacks often succeeding. This was to be expected. The jihadis have been concentrating in the Idlib area for years, replenishing, refitting and preparing defenses. SAA operations were frequently halted by unexplainable ceasefires. But the combined air attacks by Syrian and Russian air assets and SAA indirect fire finally took their toll on the jihadis. The result was the encirclement of Khan Sheikhoun and all the jihadis south of there. The resulting cauldron was quickly reduced leaving the Turkish observation post at Morek surrounded by SAA and Russian troops. I bet the Turks feel silly sitting there. Operation Idlib Dawn continues.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have secured the key town of al-Tamanah in the southeastern countryside of Idlib. In the early hours of August 30, the army was able to besiege the remaining militants inside the town after capturing the northeastern hill of Soukaiyate and the northwestern hill of Sidi Ali. After securing the town, the SAA began a new push in the western direction, capturing the hilltops of Jabal Saghir, Turki and Sidi Jaffar.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the al-Qaeda-affiliated Wa Harid al-Muminin operations room and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) attempted to hold onto their positions in al-Tamanah and its surroundings with their full strengths.
Pro-government sources are now claiming that the SAA will continue its operation and advance towards the city of Ma`arat al-Nu`man. However, this is yet to be confirmed. (South Front)
Al Tamanah lies about six miles east of Khan Shaikhoun. Its capture by the SAA secures the recent gains spearheaded by the Tiger Force or I should say the SAA’s new 25th Special Forces Division as the Tiger Force is now called. As part of the new name, the 25th is now fully integrated into the SAA command rather than being a militia force affiliated with Syrian Air Force Intelligence. This is a wise move undoubtedly orchestrated by the Russian advisors. There is no change in leadership within the 25th and probably no major organizational changes. What this does is normalize the Tiger Force and improve command/control and logistical support.
The real question is what’s next for Operation Idlib Dawn. Will the SAA move to take Kabani and the al Ghaab Plain or will the 25th Division spearhead a drive up the M5 to Ma`arat al-Nu`man? I don’t know and neither do the jihadis. That’s the way it should be. Slap a violent surprise on those sons of bitches.
Today the Russian Reconciliation Center announced another one sided ceasefire. These are exasperating to this observer. However, there may be a good reason for this. The Khan Sheikhoun cauldron collapsed quickly, perhaps too quickly. I saw no reports of jihadis streaming northward to avoid the encirclement. Perhaps they went to ground in tunnels, caves and among the locals. This hidden enemy must be dug out and exterminated in order to eliminate the possibility of an ugly surprise when the SAA does move north to liberate more of Idlib governorate.
I hope the SAA doesn’t move too cautiously, though. The jihadi defenses appear to be rapidly collapsing and their ability to counterattack appears to be near gone. The SAA should not allow them to recover once again. Fortune favors the bold.