Bloody brown tracks to deir al-zor … PL


The R+6 are rapidly clearing up the thinly manned IS remnants east  of Khanassar in the pocket formed when the road from Ithriya to Rasafa was secured a few days ago.  This process will make the main government supply road to Aleppo City much more secure although there is still a menace lurking in AQ jihadi occupied Idlib Province to the west.  According to the CIA public relations man David Ignatius (just back from Syria) the Russians have put a lot of effort into defining the line of contact between the US backed SDF forces around Raqqa and the SAA who are well ensconced south of that line and obviously looking SE toward the isolated fortress town of deir al zor  80-90 miles away across the hardpan stony desert of eastern Syria. 

There are several desert tracks and roads leading SE in the direction of deir al-zor from the present positions of the SAA at the leading edge of the newly captured area between Ithriya and Rasafa.  IMO the SAA are likely to choose a line of advance that originates closer rather than farther from Ithriya town because sch a route would greatly shorten the supply LOC for the grouping of motorized and mechanized forces likely to be employed for the main thrust to deir al-zor.  These forces will likely include the ubiquitous Tiger Forces under Suheil Hassan.

IS forces are in bad shape having lost many men and pieces of equipment in the fighting at Mosul and around Raqqa.  Surviving fighters have moved to the SE to join the fight around deir-al-zor evidently hoping to take the town and re-establish a governing capital to replace Raqqa.  They are constantly harassed by air attacks and are much weakened,

R+6 forces in SE Syria as well as the US coalition supported forces around al-tanf are exerting a strong containing effect on IS fighters, fixing them in position and unable to  to move north to resist the coming SAA drive to deir-al-zor from te Ithriya area.

This forecast of R+6 future operations is merely my opinion.  Others may well have a different opinion.  pl


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41 Responses to Bloody brown tracks to deir al-zor … PL

  1. Peter in Toronto says:

    I think there is serious competition among jihadists to lay claim to the next chemical weapons attack. There’s already reports from two different groups in one of the kettles around Damascus about the use of chlorine. They will have to apply their most skilled actors and video editing talent because temporary USAF air support is at stake.

  2. aleksandar says:

    Seems SDF has also DeZ in sight.
    “This weekend, the Kurdish-led ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) advanced considerably along the southern bank of the Euphrates River, thereby wrestling control over three villages on the M4-highway leading to Deir Ezzor.”

  3. turcopolier says:

    You may not be aware that TTG and I are two different people. pl

  4. Tigermoth says:

    I’m of the opinion that once the Ithriya / Rasafa road is more or less safe for logistics supply, the Tiger forces will move along the southern bank of the Euphrates towards deir-al-zor just to prevent further SDF advances into Syria. From the start of their campaign it has been one to first block the Turkish backed forces then the SDF. The supply line became too long then and after taking Rasafa it needed to be shortened. This is done so we will see.
    As b of Moon of Alabama stated was about to happen; FSA from al Tanf has been air dropped to Al Shaddadi were the US is putting up a new base. This is for a push to deir-al-zor. More of a land grap is my guess. Al Shaddadi seems to be as far south as the YPG was willing to advance. It will be hard to block this move.

  5. Peter AU says:

    An article in AMN a few days ago. Desert Hawks brought back into play to clear the ISIS held population centers in eastern Homs/Hama
    From memory, at the time Russia entered the fight in Syria, only Tiger forces and Desert hawks were cable of taking ground wherever they were placed. Apparently DH are now part of the SAA rather than a mercenary unit, retrained by Russia and supplied with T-72 and T-90 tanks.
    Once the east Hama/Homs pocked has been cleared, Tiger forces, Desert Hawks, and 5th corps would be on a very short frontline.
    With Brett McGurk’s visit to Tabqa, US seems to be placing a lot of importance on the town? Ensuring US retains control of the dam, a major Syrian asset?
    Another major Syrian asset is the Omar and associated oilfields east of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province.
    From this recent article in AMN, US may well be trying to set up a force to take the oilfields area before R+6 reaches the Euphrates.

  6. fanto says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Sir, I remember one of our posts shortly after the Syria color revolution started. In it you predicted very accurately that overthrow of the Syrian government will not be quick, that is will last several years, if I recall you mentioned 4 or more years. Would you please give me a link to it? Thanks

  7. blowback says:

    So does the FSA:
    The US-led coalition will establish a new military base for the FSA-affiliated Maghawir al-Thawra group in al-Shaddadi town, northeastern Syria, the political advisor of FSA, Abu Yacoub, said.
    According to the advisor, the aim of this new garrison is to deploy the US-backed fighters who will eventually attempt to capture the ISIS-held Deir Ezzor city.
    As for the SDF, they probably don’t want to upset the Russians who are providing them with training and “muscle” up north in Afrin which the Turkish are threatening to invade. Part of the reason the SAA pushed to Resafa was most likely to persuade the SDF to close off access to Raqqa from the south but until Raqqa is fully liberated would the Kurds really want to push further south to Deir Ez-zor and upset the Russians and Syrians?

  8. turcopolier says:

    “the US-backed fighters who will eventually attempt to capture the ISIS-held Deir Ezzor city.” IS does not hold deir al-zor City and probably will not. [;

  9. turcopolier says:

    It is in the archives. That is why we have the archives. pl

  10. turcopolier says:

    Peter AU
    To call associated militia and irregular units in the ME “mercenaries” is just ignorant of how these societies work. pl

  11. Peter AU says:

    I believe i believe the desert hawks were original set up by a retired general to protect a private oil field.
    After the oil field they were protecting was over run by ISIS, they then fought where required for the Syrian government.
    This may be wrong, but on reading up about them sometime ago, that is the information I found.

  12. Peter AU says:

    Thinking on it some more, private security force may be a better term?

  13. turcopolier says:

    Peter AU
    No. These societies easily fracture and re-organize themselves behind individual “heroes” and the official government is often just one of the players and rarely has a monopoly on violence. As internal wars continue these militia groups are attracted to one side or another in the struggle and become official government assets. pl

  14. blowback says:

    That was a quote of what the FSA-Borg advisor said but quite a telling one given the Washington Borg’s narrative that the R+6 aren’t fighting ISIS but the “moderate” jihadists (actually local Al Qaeda – don’t ordinary Americans remember them from 9/11) and that Deir Ez-zor is an ISIS town even though a large if not the major chunk of it is held by the SAA which is fighting and killing a lot of ISIS to prevent it falling into ISIS’s hands. I suppose the FSA has learnt that to succeed with the Washington Borg you just need to spew out their fake narrative at all times.

  15. aleksandar says:

    I’m , just didn’t pay enough attention.
    Will not happen again.

  16. plantman says:

    What does the US want at this point?
    It’s clear that taking all the territory east of the Euphrates will be difficult if not impossible, so what’s the backup plan?
    Many people have speculated that the US will not give up the territory the SDF has captured during the war, but no one has speculated about what this means geographically.
    I would expect that if the SDF takes Raqqa and US special forces are involved, then Putin and the SAA will stay away. But that’s just a guess.
    In any event, it doesn’t seem likely that Syria will be capable of consolidating all the territory it controlled prior to the war. The country is going to be a checkerboard with the Turks, the Kurds and maybe even the Sunnis ending up occupying some of the land that used to comprise the sovereign country.
    Bottom line: I don’t see Putin waging war on the US to liberate Syrian terrirtory.
    But I’d like to hear from people who think I am wrong. (because I’m no expert, that’s for sure. I’m just interested.)

  17. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I suspect you are right. The Daeshis may be in bad shape. But a cornered rat will bite, and they are still somewhat strong in the Euphrates valley. They badly need a propaganda victory.
    Per the Saturday David Ignatius article in the WP the Russians quietly agreed to an 80-mile “deconfliction” boundary that stretches from a few miles west of Tabqa to a village on the Euphrates called Karama. He says “That line appears to be holding, and it’s a promising sign that broader U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria may be possible.” Karama is approx 10 to 15 miles east of Raqqah. I am assuming the Tiger forces will head east just south of that line until they can swing up to route 4. Although I have not seen that boundary line on a map anywhere.
    The menace from Idlib is real also. There is a bottleneck on the SAA controlled Salamiyah/Ithriya road at As-Sa’an. SAA is thin there controlling only one mile on each side of the road, with al-Qaeda in Idlib to the north and the Daesh to the south. I realize the do not ‘normally’ cooperate, but they could easily. And even if they do not openly cooperate, if one starts an offensive there, the other one may take advantage of the situation. The Syrian War Map showed yesterday that the Desert Hawks that Peter AU speaks of is in that area trying to close off the Daesh pocket to the south.

  18. The Tiger Forces, or a good part of them, have returned to their hometown of Qamhana, north of Homs. They’re probably having a little rest and refit. I’m sure they’ll be in action again soon. In the meantime, the Republican Guards 124th Brigade and supporting forces are reducing the Khanasser pocket. The Desert Hawks are advancing from the west against the IS bulge south of Ithriya. That should “prepare the battlefield” quite well for a renewed offensive towards DeZ by the Tiger Forces.

  19. aleksandar,
    I’m not too concerned by YPG/SDF moves towards DeZ on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. All that will do is lessen IS pressure on the city’s defenders. After a few minor flareups between the SAA and the YPG/SDF along their line of contact, things have been pretty quiet.
    I do have a strong suspicion that the YPG Kurds may soon shift their attention to Afrin. Turkey and their FSA allies are making some threatening noises and moves in that direction. Whether they truly mean any of it is not clear to me, but I’m pretty sure the Kurds would rather take care of this threat than help the Coalition establish their safe are in eastern Syria.

  20. turcopolier says:

    IMO the “hinge” for the main maneuver will be from Ithriya SE to link up with forces moving east toward al-suknah. With luck that will take a number of IS in reverse. IMO an advance down the western bank of the Euphrates exposes the advancing SSA to attack from the SDF/YPG. There will be secondary attacks north and south of the main axis of advance from suknah to deir al-zor. In my opinion deir al-zor will be relived in the next 90 days. [;

  21. pl,
    I agree that is the best and most likely axis for an advance spearheaded by the Tiger Forces. Those forces are too important to let rest longer than they must.

  22. mike says:

    Colonel –
    They cannot wait longer than 90 days. Too much honor at stake to let the coaltion and the SDF break the siege at DeZ, or to liberate al-Bukamal and Mayadin.
    Regarding the Euphrates west bank axis towards DeZ. There may be some Arab elements of the SDF that would love to take a shot at the SAA. But I do not believe the YPG will attack any Syrian regime forces.
    The YPG and SAA have worked together in the Sheikh Maqsoud and al-Ashrafiah neighborhoods of Aleppo City. They tolerate each other in close proximity in both Qamislo and Hasakah in the NE. The Syrian regime has posted border constabulary in the west of Manbij to protect YPG and Kurdish civilians from Turkish proxies in the so-called Euphrates Shield enclave. They have had a peaceful boundary south of Manbij from al-Arimah SW down to Lake Assad. They had peaceful relations west and southwest of Tabqa.
    The only trouble between them has been at Ja’din where the Syrian regime attacked (mistakenly I believe) SDF forces – and there is reason to believe that there were no YPG involved in that, only Arab elements of the SDF. If the YPG started a conflict with the SAA they would lose Russian support in Afrin. They would lose Lavrov’s diplomatic efforts with Turkey. They would lose the support of their Assyrian, Circassian, and Armenian allies – and some of their Arab allies, the Shammar tribe for sure, and perhaps others.
    On the other hand, if a firefight did start whether deliberately or in blunder, the coalition would certainly step in and attack any Syrian regime forces they thought were endangering the SDF. So yes, the SAA would probably NOT advance down the western bank of the Euphrates too closely, at least until Ma’adan or even better al-Tibni.
    IMHO anyway.

  23. Thirdeye says:

    First with Latakia and now eastern Hama the Desert Hawks seem to get tasked with the terrain battles.

  24. Trish S says:

    Just a bit on Sy Hersh’s excellent work over the years challenging the media’s fake WMD attacks in Syria (which has largely been a reprise of media’s Iraq fake WMD campaign in 2002-3.) The silencing of his crucial information is ominous indeed, and part of a concerted censorship of the truth.
    On Feb 1, 2013 I was interviewed by a small UN progam called “Heat in the Middle East” at icastnews. I spoke about the Libyan weapons coming into Incirlik from Benghazi and filtered into Syria against Assad. More importantly, we discussed the coming recipients of this hardware, the US -NATO operation which was globally training Mujahedin (based on the 1980s Afghan guerillas used against USSR.) Year later called “ISIS”.
    I told the interviewer the fake WMD casus belli would start on 10th Anniversary of Iraq War. Sarin was set off in Khan Al Assal 6 weeks later on Mar 19, 2013 opening the current false PR schtik of “Assad gassing his own people” and it hasnt stopped since. Most interesting is that Syria immediately requested UN investigate the attack- which UN found repeated excuses not to do. It was one of the few times in this Syria WMD mess when the chemical attack blame could have been pretty reliably and unequivocably attributed to Turkey and its Qaeda jihadis on the border.
    Any mention of that first Khan Al Assal attack has since been all but disappeared from the news when the “Syria gassing its own people” meme is recycled. And I believe for that reason.
    The owner of this little UN TV program quickly pulled the interview off air claiming “the UN would rescind his press credentials if he ran it” and toss him out of the press corps there. OUTRAGEOUS. Seeing Sy Hersh, probably the best reporters of the last half+ century, face the same kind of exile is far more disturbing, outrageous and even dangerous to our country. His article is accurate. But publishable only in Germany?? Incredible.
    As former co-founder of Military Families Support Network in Gulf War, I urge more military servicemen to take a stand and speak out and blow the whistle on what we are doing illegally in Syria before it is too late. If enough expose the truth, the media cant silence everyone. America is at stake, and the rest of the world too if this spins out of control.
    Special THANK YOU Col Lang for showing leadership and for being a rare voice of courage on these issues.

  25. turcopolier says:

    I am happy to see that they have the mother wit to [periodically rest SAA troops. pl

  26. turcopolier says:

    I said WITHIN 90 days. pl

  27. Lavrov as reported on FR:-
    “Russia will respond adequately and in proportion if the US implement its threats against Damascus for allegedly preparing a chemical attack, as stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
    “I very much hope that this time the United States will be guided by the need to really protect the non-proliferation of chemical weapons and not to speculate on the alleged intelligence, which comes from “secret sources”. They cannot create pretexts for another blow to the forces of the Syrian army”- Lavrov said.
    The Minister confirmed that, during the recent telephone conversation between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the US has information about the upcoming Damascus chemical attack.
    Earlier, Washington threatened Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the case of such an attack, that he will pay a high price.”
    I do not understand the recent exchanges between the two sides about possible gas attacks. Is it so Trump can say “We stopped them using gas again”? Or is something genuinely brewing?

  28. fanto says:

    At Colonel Lang:
    Colonel, Sir, I have tried the search window, and could not find it, I tried to go through the monthly archives and there are too many to go through, and I do not remember the exact year. The search window with key words does not have the option to find what I am looking for.

  29. pmr9 says:

    A new analysis of evidence on the Khan Sheikhoun massacre has recently been produced by Michael Kobs, a German blogger ( One section of this may be relevant to suggestions in earlier threads that elements in the US military are not happy with the official story of a regime chemical attack.
    Kobs notes that purported eyewitnesses report at least two jet fly-overs at the time of the alleged chemical attack, and that the locations of the smoke plumes seen on videos recorded by the rebels could not correspond to bombs dropped in a single pass. These plumes are located on the northern side of town.
    However the flight tracking map shown on 6 April by the Pentagon at a press conference shows only a single pass from east to west over the southern edge of town. This is consistent with Publius Tacitus’s comment on an earlier SST thread that the actual strike was southwest of town.
    If the Pentagon map is correct in showing only a single east-west pass to the south of the town, the only possible explanation for the smoke plumes is that they were generated by IEDs on the ground, presumably to mimic an air raid.
    This raises questions about how and why the Pentagon map was released, as it seems unlikely that those who undertook the bomb damage assessment could not have noticed that the flight path was incompatible with the alleged impact site of the chemical munition in the northern part of town.
    The original source for the flight path map, copied by many other media outlets, appears to be an ABC report on 7 April with the headline “US releases flight path of plane used in Syria chemical attack”. However the body of the report shows what appears to be a photo rather than a digital image of the map, with accompanying text “Officials decided to declassify the photo to prove that Syria’s Shayrat air base was linked to the chemical attack, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesperson said Thursday night”. The map does not appear on the DoD website with the press release of Capt. Davis’s statement dated 6 April. It’s possible that one of the ABC journalists managed to capture a photo of the screen surreptitiously.

  30. drifter says:

    I think it is more likely that a SE advance from Ithriya will be used to lever ISIS out of East Hama, rather than seeking encirclement. I don’t think R+6 wants to have to jack-hammer ISIS out of the hills and towns of that area and would prefer to have them retreat, as was the case in Khanasser. The dynamics of the Syrian war seem to favor the government getting enemy fighters to “move along”, sort of like transients, rather than destroying them, a la Clausewitz. I don’t fully understand it, but then I don’t understand why the SAA uses technicals either since they look like big fat juicy targets to me.

  31. turcopolier says:

    I findthat puzzling as well. Low cost, high firepower? pl

  32. drifter,
    The technicals are cheaper, faster and far more fuel efficient than MBTs or even lighter armored wheeled personnel carriers like the BTR-80. What they lack is protection aside from speed and small size. Employing these technicals do require a different philosophy about force protection. It’s a far different philosophy than our Army where body armor and mine-proof vehicles are the expected norm. Don’t get me wrong. If given the choice most armies would take the heavy tracked firepower and body armor over a Toyota 4×4 and a T-shirt if given the choice.

  33. Peter AU says:

    The amount of ATGM’s that have been used in the Syrian war may also be part of the reasoning for the technicals? The light ex soviet style armor although expensive compared to a lighter faster pickup, gives no protection against the ATGM’s.

  34. Peter AU,
    Yes the ATGMs negated the effectiveness of a lot of armor. While I was in IOBC, I learned of the damage a sagger or TOW round would do to an M-113 APC… it would leave the inside of the hull coated in what looks like oatmeal and ketchup. I vowed never to get assigned to a mech infantry outfit. However, the new Russian active defense measures like the Arena and Afganit systems are supposed to provide significant protection against ATGM and APDS uranium core rounds. It’s a constant competition.
    The technical came into its own during the “Toyota War” between Libya and Chad in the late 80s. The Chadians used the light mobility of small pickups to great effect against Gaddafi’s armor. The Libyans didn’t have any success until they adopted the same tactics. The Russians are looking seriously at the concept with their super light brigades based on lessons from the war in Syria.
    Our scout platoons in early infantry battalions used 1/4 ton trucks with M-60 machine guns as gun jeeps. Although larger than the WWII jeeps these 1/4 tons were far smaller than even the unarmored HMMVs. The 1/4 ton also served as the TOW carrier back then. Those were the same 1/4 tons that mounted the 106 recoiless rifle before the advent of the TOW. The Army experimented with dune buggies a while back in the 9th Infantry Division. I don’t think the idea went anywhere. We’re now wedded to the idea of force protection above all.

  35. Fanto – Wayback has a search facility that I’ve used in the past. It also has a facility called “Archive-it” that looks as if it would search by keyword, though that’s subscription. Quite often just Googling some keywords + a site reference gets what’s wanted.
    My fall back procedure with such problems is simply to ask the nearest 12 year old. If you can cope with the pitying looks, that is.

  36. charly says:

    Technicals also have air conditioning.

  37. Thomas says:

    Use the categories above the monthly archive list, for example click Syria and it will show you all the articles posted on SST regarding that subject from most recent on down.

  38. charly says:

    You can use google to search on one site specific and for only a specific time

  39. fanto says:

    at Thomas, English Outsider, charly
    Thank you all for your advice; I did the survey of Syria entries since 2011 and did not find the quote I was looking for, but several which were close enough with Colonel Lang’ predictions that Assad and his multi-religious and multi-ethnic coalition will not give up easily or not at all. Those predictions are in multiple entries throughout 2012 and 2013. Reading those SST articles from those years are very interesting and I recommend those to all SST readers – very educational indeed.
    here is one example from August 7, 2012 in “Positioning the Force in Aleppo”:
    “…None of this means that the Assad government will last forever, but the odds are improving that it will be around for a number of years. Pl”

  40. Thomas says:

    Glad to help.

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