I have been examining the topography of the areas now held by the R+6 and IS in eastern Syria. There are not very good maps for this but the ones available on Google Earth and Google Maps are good enough. They show topographic terrain and the back roads.
I agree with TTG that the Tiger Forces Group under Suheil (the Stonewall of Syria) will be committed on the main axis of advance. Other axes will be used to fix the IS fighters in position making it nearly impossible for them to maneuver against the main axis of advance.
Possible axes of advance:
1. From possible positions east of al-tanf toward al bu kamal, and from al bu kamal north along the river road to deir al-zor. This advance will be opposed by IS forces in position to defend al bu kamal and the road north where the road runs through population centers held by IS and presumably fortified by them.
2. R+6 now hold the line of the ithria-rasafa highway. There is the possibility of advance to the east from the rasafa area to the Euphrates River and thence south along the west bank to deir- al-zor. This axis has the disadvantage of exposure of the left flank of the column and its line of supply to the SDF/YPG forces who at this point cannot be considered "friendly" by the R+6.
3. Straight forward from present positions on the Palmyra-sukhna- deir al zor highway. This has the disadvantage of being essentially a frontal attack on long emplaced IS forces. Some minor flanking attacks can be made by hooking left or right from the present line, but the approach is essentially frontal.
4. A close inspection of the terrain reveals that there are at least two hard surface roads that run SE from either side of ithriya to sukhna approaching sukhna from the NW. Employment of the Tiger Force Group on one or both of these roads would require them to move 80 miles or so to reach sukhna in a "turning movement" that will turn the enemy out of his present positions at sukhna and to the west where he is presently under severe pressure from R+6 forces east of Palmyra.
I used to do this kind of analysis for a living for US and allied forces as a "Planner" for the JCS. If I were asked my opinion I would recommend Couse Of Action 4 with supporting attacks on the other axes, But, commanders often are unwilling to accept advice and any damned thing could actually happen. pl
I had seen your previous comment where you suggested the idea of an advance from the Humayma area in the southeast directly to the mountains overlooking the Deir Ezzor airport – across the flat desert in between.
Any possibility of this do you think? Or were you able to rule this option out after a closer look?
I ask because I can’t see how ISIS would be prepared for this considering the pressure they are facing on every other front.
Albayim, to what extent do you see similarities to this kind of war to that of North Africa early 40s, visa vis Rommel and Africa Corps and the British, before and after the introduction of Montgomery and flow of American material and manpower infusion? Seems to me, problems of supply lines, flanking movements, holding points on a map and flexible defense lines resonate in these new battles over in Syria. Do you think the Generals involved read their Schmidts, von Lucks, and biographies of Rommel’s?
Not so long ago, you were recommending an all out offensive on Idlib province (political/strategic minefield IMHO).
Do you still think that would have been better than stopping Turkish advance south, taking Deir Hafer & Maskaneh planes, jirah airbase, clearing area east of Khanasser road, taking strong positions for reaching Euphrates river and lifting DeirEzzor siege ?
Any comment on what might be called course 1a, using the T2- Al Mayadin road through flat desert, bypassing Al Mayadin and doing the remaining 40 km to Deir Ezzor using major roads through a sparsely populated area?
I remain convinced that a sounder strategy would have been to recover Idlib Province just after the recovery of the rebel held part of the city of Aleppo. In the first few weeks it would have been quite doable with the forces available and a modicum of imagination. As it is, the province remains a breeding ground for jihadist fighters and a base from which they plan to launch new offensives into the highly populated parts of western Syria. Will the different jihadi group kill each other off. Perhaps, but it is equally possible that one or another of the jihadi factions will gain control and renew its efforts for offensives into territory south of the province as it did in the recent past in Hama. Will the Idlib Province be used as a base for attempts to retake Aleppo City? Will Turkey continue to be restrained from attempting to realize irredentist dreams in northern Syria? Erdogan’s Turkey treasures a wealth of irredentist dreams. I have accepted the Syrian government’s decision to concentrate first on recovering the vast emptiness of its eastern territories. In that context I comment on what is actually occurring rather than what might have been. The Turkish advance south from their border was halted by the opposition of the SDF/YPG with intense American support both in aid the SDF and diplomatic pressure on Turkey. The SAA did not stop that advance but its positioning helps the SDF to deter further Turkish advances. With the Turkish advance into Syria stopped the SAA has made admirable use of the SDF/YPG gains in maneuvering south of the SDF enclave toward deir al-zor. That could have been accomplished after the prioritized recovery of Idlib Province. And IMO that would ve been the better priority. pl
IMO that would face as much opposition as S can manage in the Mayadin area. We will see if the SAG opts for that by moving the Tiger Force Group to that axis. pl
I think the two wars are quite similar in the limited number of troops available on both sides and the relatively vast spaces involved except in the green belt of the Fertile Crescent. pl
Imagine if you will that you are the commander of a brigade sized kampfgruppe approaching Deir-Ezzor, say 20km distant. The next few days advance should allow your forces to, if not enter the city, at least take a commanding hill giving LOS into the city..
What is the best course of action? The human inclination is to break the siege, and to have your forces enter the city at some spot, gaining a huge morale boost. But is that the best course of action? ISIS will likely fight very hard to prevent just that – how can that be exploited to kill as many of them as possible? The war is not over with the release of Deir-Ezzor – what is the best positioning for the next phase?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, especially when they must be evaluated at the national as well as the kampfgruppe level. pl
That was TTG’s comment and suggestion. My discussion today seeks to exploit IS’s inability to cope with all the pressure on them but a principal axis must be chosen if an ability on the part of IS to move around and block a number of weaker axes is to be avoided. pl
It seems to me that your prior post about Idlib has made the difference very clear. The world war II north African battles were a (locally) focused conflict of two forces. In Syria every campaign plan must take into account the possible actions of other capable forces The SAA is very much more constrained than Rommel or Montgomery ever were.
Option 4 would be within easy range of helicopters which seem to be used a lot in the open desert areas.
Looking at google and wikipedia maps, I cannot see any more air bases in the area held by ISIS, and very few basic airstrips. No airstrips at all that I can see on the Palmyra/Deir Ezzor road. I would guess Russia would be looking for sealed surfaces for even a temporary re-arm / refuel point for the heli’s.
My response to Kunuri had to do with the “open” warfare now being conducted in east. Rommel, of course never had more than three German divisions until the war arrived in Tunisia. pl
“The Turkish advance south from their border was halted by the opposition of the SDF/YPG with intense American support both in aid the SDF and diplomatic pressure on Turkey.”
Sir, what do you make of this intense American support?
Or option 5: Cut the Sukhna/eir-ez-Zor road (M20) north of Sukhna. Take the road leading south from Resafa to al-Taybah. From there take the road east past the Umayyid castle of asr al-Hayr-al-Sharki to a point on route M20 approximately 25 road miles north of Sukhna. That puts Daesh at Sukhna in between hammer and anvil as in the Battle of Zama.
Regarding option #2: I believe you are right that the Syrian regime will not trust that option. There are certain Arab and Turkmen elements within the SDF that are hostile to Assad. On the other hand I do not believe the Kurdish YPG has anything to gain by allowing that to happen. They are friendly with Russia. They have worked well with the Syrian regime in the past. I have no idea of their relationship with Hezbollah or the IRGC, but they have coordinated with Iraqi Shiite militias. And there are some Arab elements of the SDF that are friendly with the Syrian regime – the Raqqa Hawks and the Shammar tribe fighters, al-Sanadid, for example are NOT hostile to Assad.
on the subject of mapping, have you tried Tactical Pilotage Charts?
I was advised by the French organisers of an all terrain rallye I entered to purchase the relevent charts for the region we would be in,
I have the charts for Qatar, Southern Morocco and the entire of Tunisia so far,
in the areas devoid of metalled roads the topographical detail is pretty good, the details of dune complexes in the far south are quite fascinating,
I’ve been able to purchase them in the UK from Stanfords in London but they do originate from US defence mapping agency,
aside from their given utility, for a person who appreciates maps and navigation they are a thing of beauty in their own right!
I recollect I paid around £8.50 a piece for mine, I thought it a good deal,
It is a policy choice dictated by the refusal of the US to align itself with its natural ally, the Syrian government. pl
Colonel, it looks like your option 4 was close – a pro-government outlet has tweeted that the SAA is going to push towards Sukhnah from Resafa.
In Arabic (I’m going off a translation posted to Reddit): https://twitter.com/C_Military1/status/883051346781491202
What’s your assessment of this? It seems like it would be essentially the same outcome as approaching from Ithriya.
That is interesting. Such a COA would be desirable if the SAA believes that the SDF/YPG occupied sector around Tabqa and Raqqa is not a threat to their flank as they advance. If that is true then it is even more desirable than COA 4 because in a turning movement the effect is increased in proportion to the depth of the movement into the enemy’s rear. pl
Al Masdar News is reporting that the Tiger Forces are moving back into Raqqa province in preparation for a renewed offensive with the objective of Suknah. Sounds like option 4. Further to the west, the Liwa Al Quds and Desert Hawks are continuing a southward offensive against the IS bulge towards Homs. Both offensives will probably force IS forces to largely leave this bulge just as they largely left the Khanasser pocket.
The fact that SAA JSC allowed Tiger Force to have somme rest shows that they are confident about DeZ capacity to resist.
The only town in Raqqah province held by SAA is Rusafa.Ithriya is in Hama province.
A Republicain Guard Brigade is sheduled to arrive in Rusafa also.
Such an amount of forces need a 2 axis of advance.
aleksander et al
Yes. As I wrote in my last post on the grand tactics or the deir al-zor campaign it is likely that the main axis of advance will be SE from somewhere west of Rasafa on the Ithriya-Rasafa road with supporting and fixing attacks in the T-2 area and from very near Rasafa itself. As I wrote the R+6 do not seem at all concerned with possible interference from SDF/YPG. pl
July 10, FARS
Syrian Army Preparing to Storm ISIL’s Vital Bastion en Route to Deir Ezzur from Two Fronts
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Special forces deployed in Southern Raqqa and the Army soldiers deployed in Eastern Homs are preparing to launch a joint anti-ISIL operation to drive terrorists out of the strategic town of al-Sukhnah that is considered as the main gate to Deir Ezzur city.
A battlefield source said the Syrian Special Forces are not looking to increase their presence in Raqqa province; “instead, they have plans to push South from the town of al-Rasafeh in Southern Raqqa towards al-Sukhnah in Eastern Homs”.
The source added that the Syrian Armed Forces plan to launch their offensive from two different fronts in order to force the ISIL to retreat from the key town near the Deir Ezzur border.
The source went on to say that the second front of the army operation starts from the Eastern direction of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) toward West of al-Sukhnah, adding that the army forces are now advancing rapidly against terrorists in the front.
Another source said that the army has dispatched more heavy equipment to Arak region in Eastern Homs to intensify attacks on ISIL’s defense lines in al-Sukhnah.
The source further added that following ISIL’s defeats in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, the fresh army operation that will cover Eastern Hama and Homs and the entire Deir Ezzur province is so important that the army would dispatch more forces and equipment to advance towards Deir Ezzur with the back up of the Russian Air Force.
Earlier reports said that the army men and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, who had captured the heights overlooking al-Heil oilfield and had laid siege on the ISIL in the strategic region, managed to advance against ISIL in the depth of Badiyeh (desert) and seized full control over a large part of al-Heil oilfield near the town of al-Sukhnah.
In the meantime, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets carried out repeated attacks on ISIL’s defense lines in al-Heil, killing a number of terrorists.
According to reports, a few dozens more of ISIL terrorists have remained in the region, and the army soldiers seem to have an easy job to move fast towards al-Sukhnah.
Field reports also said that the pro-government forces are engaged in a military operation to liberate the oil-rich town of al-Sukhnah from ISIL.
Al-Sukhnah is the last bastion of ISIL fighters in Homs and the last strategic barrier which stands before pro-government forces can lifting the siege of Deir Ezzur.