“Nine villages were seized from ISIS on Monday as the Kurdish-led ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) reopened the Manbij front and pushed southwards along the Euphrates River. With ISIS struggling to hold ground in the region, Kurdish forward units took control over the villages of Jurunli, Mahunah, Haymar al-Jays, Judayat al-Faras, Turaykiyat al-Humr, Qibab Kabir, Qibab Saghir, Sakhanah and Arudah with relative ease just hours after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) also advanced nearby, thus cutting off the frontline territory between ISIS and the Turkish Armed Forces.
A military source informed Al-Masdar News that the SDF and Manbij Military Council are keen to take control of Al-Khafsa – this town has been fortified by ISIS militants after reaching a frontline stalemate in August 2016 following the liberation of Manbij city.
Remarkably, there are credible reports which indicate cooperation between the SDF and SAA; the latter provided artillery support for the advancing Kurdish forces. The Russian Air Force was also operational in eastern Aleppo tonight, pulverizing a number of Islamic State gun positions.
Earlier today, SDF reinforcements and US military advisors arrived to Manbij. These forces are now spearheading the offensive. A new batch of armored vehicles and technicals were also provided to the SDF.
Al-Khafsa is strategically important as it supplies the provincial capital of Aleppo with water; recently, this facility was shut down by ISIS while the latter flooded some government-held villages in the region. With heavy clashes ongoing on the near perimeter of Al-Khafsa, the town is expected to fall either overnight or tomorrow.” (Al Masdar News)
The last 48 hours have seen a rash of activity east of Aleppo. The SAA’s Tiger Forces raced forward to link up with the YPG south of Manbij on the heels of a large scale tactical withdrawal of IS forces from the al-Bab area. This linkup has put the kibosh on Turkey’s plans to advance towards Raqqa. I wonder if this linkup was anything like that Spring day in April, 1945 near Torgau on the Elbe?
Erdogan has declared that he now intends to take Manbij. Fat chance of that happening. Both FSA and Turkish forces took it on the chin during their assault on al-Bab. Taking on the YPG and Manbij Military Council forces will be a bridge too far, especially since the Kurds have the support of U.S. Special Forces and U.S. airpower.
My guess is the Russians and the SAA have been coordinating this with the YPG for quite some time. They will probably be working together more and more as they roll towards Tabqa and Raqqa. In addition to this military cooperation, the YPG and SAA have already opened up a trade route to secure safe passage of goods and supply trucks. I’m very glad to see this, but at some point the Tiger Forces are going to have to turn their attention to Idlib. Will it be before or after the fall of Raqqa?
I still have a fear that the U.S. wants to create a space for anti-Assad forces in the YPG/SDF controlled area. That would be a stupid, stupid idea. We should largely leave the area to the Kurds and Syrians as soon as we possibly can. Leaving just a few SF teams there, with the permission of the Syrian government would be ideal. They could do a lot in improving our relationship with Syria, Russia and even Iran. I hope McMaster is thinking that far ahead. Of course, Erdogan is likely to pitch such a fit he’s liable to give himself an aneurism.
Saw this twitter link regarding a US convoy arriving in Manbij today. Looks like Votel is holding to his word to protect Manbij. The Turkish proxies are probably too busy looting civilian houses in al-Bab and surrounding villages to think too far ahead about going against the SDF. But I understand the Turks have been shelling villages west of Manbij.
Assad wants to retake every inch of Syria, and he believes he can crush the Idlib terrorists when the time is right. For now, he wants to turn his forces to the East where to confront the greatest immediate threats to the Syrian Arab Republic’s territorial integrity – Turkey and the Kurds. Turkey been blocked, but if the SAA doesn’t play a part in liberating Deir-ez-Zor and Raqqa, they’ll have been shut out from half the country (geographically).
The most important result of the SAA move is the cut of the supply line between Turkey and ISIS. This is now the first time that ISIS has no friendly route to the outside. Some smuggling will still go on through Jordan and Saudi Arabia but those are unreliable routes and do not allow for unobserved mass movement of ammunition and people.
The Pentagon’s think tank RAND is (again) peddling an idea in which the Raqqa and Deir Ezzor get conquered by the Syrian Kurds but then ask for “international administration” and in consequence for a “legal” U.S. takeover of the area. (While this would formerly not include the Syrian Kurdish areas it would practically include those.)
It is a variant of the “Sunnistan” idea with all its bad attributes. A real “legality” of such an entity would be not exist. The UNSC would never agree to it.
The Kurds (and the U.S.) would be dumb to support this. Their area as well as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are landlocked. All of the surrounding states, all potentially hostile, would be against such an idea. How would the U.S. have access to it and support them when Turkey, Syria, Iraq and (the easily destabilized) Jordan all say “No”?
The Barzani mafia clan that runs the Iraqi Kurdish area (a Turkish and Israeli proxy) is pressing the U.S. to hand the Syrian Kurdish area over to him. For the second time he send a delegation to Washington to sell that idea.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG is of course against such a move.
“the cut of the supply line between Turkey and ISIS.” What you say is logical but it assumes that Turkey has continued to allow re-supply of IS even while fighting them since the intervention in Syria. pl
P.L. a question? Do all parties fighting have a seize and hold strategy in Syria?
Like us, the Turks do not speak with one voice. Some are for fighting Daesh, others still want to use them against the Kurds and/or the Syrian regime.
And the Turkish proxies are just as bad. Did they defeat Daesh in al-Bab? Or did they work a deal with them to leave and go to reinforce Raqqa?
these news recently caught my attention.
another random choice:
IS killed a lot of FSA jihadis and Turks, but they left the minefield maps for them when they withdrew from al-Bab. Talk about a love-hate relationship.
Similar to the US/Russian love-hate relationship. But at least we are not killing each other.
That Turkish wall is encroaching on Syrian land. They bulldozed hundreds of acres of Syrian olive groves to build their wall. You have to wonder if they will also wall off their 900 square mile enclave in northern Aleppo Province?
At US behest Turkey reboots Syrian war http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2017/02/23/at-us-behest-turkey-reboots-syrian-war/
Conceivably, with an eye on the new US administration’s reported plan to create an anti-Iran alliance in the region, Turkey is repositioning itself. There are several developments pointing in this direction. The US and Turkey have been holding a series of top-level meetings through the past fortnight since President Donald Trump made his first phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on February 7. The American visitors to Ankara since then included CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US senator who heads the Armed Services Committee John McCain.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has undertaken the tour of the GCC states, which aimed at harmonising Turkish stance on Syria with Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s. (During Erdogan’s tour, Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed a defence agreement.) Ankara has noted that in the past fortnight there have been important visitors from the US to the Gulf region –CIA chief Pompeo, Senator John McCain and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Pompeo conferred on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz the CIA’s George Tenet Medal for his exceptional contributions in the fight against terrorism. It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that the US is promoting a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.
Equally, Ankara and Washington are edging toward a mutually satisfactory resolution of a discord that had set them apart in the recent past – fate of Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Trump administration may act to curb Gulen’s activities, while Erdogan may no longer press for his outright extradition to Turkey.
Wheverever McCain goes, US imperialism kicks into high gear. It’s understandable that the new administration is reaching out to it’s allies in the ME and meetings are being held about the various geopolitical situations. They are going to want to “fix” whatever they perceive to have been wrong about Obama’s team’s approach so the US can be a “winner” again. Trump himself has said numerous times that he does not believe in sharing military or intelligence strategies with the press (though I expect exceptions will be made when it’s to his advantage).
Since the goal of Pax Americana is influence and status, and not peace, it is likely that displays of “strength” will be forthcoming.
IMO, so far there is no change in US policy toward Syria. US/ and usuals wants Russia to end supplying helicopters to SAA. Back to old chemical attack BS.
“Russia pledged to veto a Western-backed U.N. resolution Tuesday that would impose sanctions on 21 Syrian individuals, organizations and companies allegedly involved in chemical weapons attacks in the war-ravaged country.
The draft Security Council resolution would also ban all countries from supplying Syria’s government with helicopters, which investigators have determined were used in chemical attacks.
The resolution, initially sponsored by Britain and France, was recently joined by the new United States administration of President Donald Trump.
TTG, fellow SST readers:
In case anyone missed this, I’m attaching what an extraordinary article (written by a columnist formerly in the Turkish Special Forces, who deployed to Afghanistan btw) on the scale and ongoing nature of the purges. That a pretty clean sweep had been made of brigade COs and above is known. However, less so that purges are extending down to huge numbers of junior officers and senior enlisted personnel. Numbers are Stalin-level, and thing done in small batches so that people are always getting canned, which I imagine makes for great unit integrity and command climate. If this description of what’s happening inside the Turkish Armed Forces is even approximately true, the thing’s going to be combat-ineffective for a while. (helps explain also why force sent to northern Syria was so relatively small, just two brigades and a gaggle of FSA formations, grand announced objectives of “clearing” the right bank of the Euphrates and possibly advancing to Raqqa)]
Now, one might say that sympathies of the writer lie with many of the canned officers, but he wasn’t rabidly anti-Erdogan before or after the coup, and . In general, highly recommend readers check him out here, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/authors/metin-gurcan.html (he’s also good on practical details of the COIN campaign against the PKK, another rarity in English). I’ll as ever be very interested to hear what other readers make of this.
Sorry I missed the link to report.
and this beauty from the same report
“France’s U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, said Monday that his government was “very pleased that the new American administration has confirmed it shares completely our view” on the need for sanctions. British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said U.S. support was a sign that the three countries are determined to oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and “make sure that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity.”
Interesting. it feels last time I read an article by him must have been quite a few years ago. In any case before he published his thesis.
If B is right, then it would appear that Erdogan is planning to double cross Putin AGAIN.
Colonel, do you think that is a likely scenario?
My mistake. I was referring to the article by M.K. Bhadrakumar.
Sorry about that.
There have been reports that some supplies that came still through with the help of the Turkish intelligence service. The Turkish army cover in the occupied area is only light. People can move through without much problems. In Jarabulus, the first city Turkey “took” after ISIS moved out (locals say a deal was made), some ISIS people just changed the uniform.
Recently PMU in Iraq observed and photographed supply drops via parachute for ISIS in Tal Afar on two different days. They suspect it was a Turkish operation.
Not saying that I have proof – the reports are from the field and some are murky, but there still seem to be collusion between parts of the Turkish state and ISIS. With an SAA area between the two entities future contacts will be more difficult.
SAA has a retreat, bomb, retake strategy. I think it is true of all parties, they all have a problem with having enough troops to man their armies.
That has been the truest characteristic of this conflict. No side has enough troops to man their armies.
IMO b is right in thinking that the sultan has been keeping his options open. pl
Once again rightfully so this morning, both China and Russia vetoed the western initiated UNSC resolution supporting Syrian Takfiri terrorists. After wards the new US ambassador to UN cursed China and Russia for denying her to give some comfort to the Takfiri terrorists. I fail to see any change in US policy on Syria, Ukraine, Iran etc. IMO, we are back to 2011 all over again.
Rather than concentrating forces on Palmyra/Dier Ezzor or Idlib fronts, Syria/Russia seem to have anticipated Erdogan’s move and concentrated on connecting to SDF held ground blocking Erdogan. That operation cxommenced some time ago. I doubt there was ever any trust involved. Erdogan was used to prevent a US backed or controlled Rojava.
One bright note is that the new US ambassador to the UN is no longer the Governor of South Carolina and her national profile is going to start declining. We can probably be certain she will not wind up in the Senate or be anyone’s VP candidate.
Comparing this fighting to that of WW2 Europe is a little insulting to those combatants. The fighting in Syria and Iraq resembles gang warfare more than any sort of mechanized, maneuver warfare. Even large offensives as they are called enthusiastically by the people commenting on them are usually no more than battalion sized. The scale of operations is extremely limited.
Peter in Toronto
Not a real war in Syria? Perhaps you belong with the war pedants. pl
This is most likely what is happening as an observer. Even the mighty Aleppo operation which allegedly involved a total of tens of thousands of SAA combatants around the city, only eliminated less than 3,000 Jihadists IIRC. The fighting is limited perhaps to only 1-2 units at most while the rest of them spectate.
The SAA is very short on a reliable offensive-capable troops. They seem rather meek.
Fred I hope you are right, but like colonel says the ” collective thinkers” love these kind human loving personalities. They all deserve a peace prize before they even get to work.
Following the footage since 2011, I’m convinced that only a small fraction of the Syrian forces are capable of sustained, offensive capabilities and holding their ground. As such, these few units are ferried around the entire theatre plugging holes as they arise, which is why we have seen no decisive victories by either side in 6 years.
If this is a war, it’s a very low intensity conflict.
Peter in Toronto,
It’s only low intensity when you’re not in the thick of it. At the grazing fire level, you seldom see more than a few of your comrades or enemies at the same time. But you are right about the moving of a few topnotch units from one hot spot to another. That’s not uncommon in war.
The scale may be a lot smaller than WW2. But the intensity of the conflict is damned high in the urban fighting in Mosul. It was the same for Kobani and Manbij even though they were smaller cities.
Certainly not to the same degree as Stalingrad or Cassino or Calais or Iwo Jima. But still pretty fierce fighting.
Maneuver warfare? A bit hard to maneuver inside thousand year old cities. Especially when they have been turned into rats nests of tunneling. The SDF though has done quite a bit of maneuver by foot and by Toyota pickup truck in surrounding and isolating Raqqa City. Granted that is not ‘mechanized maneuver warfare’. But it was still a nice bit of envelopment without the armored and motorized units used in WW2 or Desert Storm.
Over the past 18 months or so we’ve seen ebb-and-flow warfare steadily replaced by something resembling more of a rising tide. The last real ebb was the ISIS seizure of Palmyra, but recent events suggest it could be short-lived. Most of the operations take place at a measured, force-conserving pace, but I don’t recall anything that compares with the pace of the east Aleppo campaign. East Aleppo City was a big hole that made a difference to have plugged for good. Same with Wadi Barada, and east Damascus looks like next in the barrel.
Turkey-US badminton match.
1) 2/28: Turkey’s Move Against Kurds in Manbij to Impact Coalition Campaign – Commander
Turkish military move against the Kurdish forces in the Syrian city of Manbij could interfere with the US-led coalition campaign against [Islamic State], US Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel said on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s armed forces would advance toward Manbij after completing operation in al-Bab. […]
2) 3/1: US Sets Up Military Base in Syrian Manbij to ‘Defend It From Turkish Attack’
A high-ranking representative of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who wished not to disclose his name, has told Sputnik Turkiye that the US is “taking all necessary measures” to defend the Syrian city of Manbij from an attack by the Turkish military. It has set up a military base in the city and hung up its flag as a “warning sign” to Ankara. […]
3) Turkey to Kick US Out of Incirlik Airbase if Washington Teams Up With Kurds
Ankara could forbid Washington from using its Incirlik airbase if the United States cooperates with the Kurdish forces, such as the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Popular Defense Units (YPG).
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Yeni Safak newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing own sources, that Ankara could end the permission in case of the cooperation between Washington and the Kurds during operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the area of Raqqa.
The newspaper added that Ankara was also considering the possibility to close the country’s airspace for US aircraft. […]
Birdie now on U.S. side of net. No wait:
Syrian Army to Secure Eastern Aleppo against Threats Posed by ISIL, Turkey, Ankara-Backed Militants
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army plans to tighten security measures across the regions stretching from East Aleppo to the Kurdish populated territories in Afrin Canton to block any possible advance by either the ISIL or the Turkish soldiers and their allied militants fighting for the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield Operation, a top placed military source revealed on Wednesday.
The source said that the Syrian Army intends to carry out a clean-up operation in the towns of Jubb al-Sultan, al-Za’aroureh, Jubb al-Homam and Jubb al-Khafa and the villages South of Manbij to strengthen its lines of defense along the strip that stretches to the Kurdish-held region in Northeastern Aleppo in order to prevent any effort by the ISIL terrorists to bypass the government-held regions.
The Syrian forces have liberated several towns South of Manbij in the last few days and blocked any further advances of the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants towards Manbij, reconnecting Eastern Aleppo to its Northeastern parts after five years.
The army also advanced against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and cut off pathway of Ankara-backed militants to Raqqa.
A source in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed on Tuesday that the Syrian army troops continued their advances against the ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and deployed forces close to the town of Manbij, blocking the Turkey-backed militants move towards Raqqa province.
The source said that the Syrian Army soldiers reached SDF-controlled regions near Manbij so no pathway remained open to the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield Operation forces to go to Raqqa province.
The source underscored that the SDF would continue the Euphrates Rage Operation and would advance towards Raqqa; “hence they would also be able to block the Raqqa-al-Bab road and the al-Bab-al-Tabaqa road to Ankara-backed militants.
The sources further added that with the arrival of the Syrian Army in regions near Manbij, the road connecting regions controlled by the Kurds to the Afrin Canton in Northern Aleppo was reopened and Manbij was once again connected to Ein al-Arab (Kobani) [END REPORT]
Now wait just one cotton-pickin minute here. If the SAA has cut off Turkey moves toward Manbij, why is US prancing around Manbij putting up a military base and deploying “heavy weaponry and armored tanks” to protect the city from Turkey?
i thought I was watching a game of badminton. I want my money back.
That’s why I will miss feu Mr Ambassador Victor Churkin.He would have kept her on her toes like he did to Samantha Power and Susan Rice.
SAA has NOT cut off Turkish moves towards Manbij. As your FARS news story mentions: “Syrian forces have liberated several towns South of Manbij…”
So Turks or their salafist proxies could go at Manbij from both the north and the west. They already shelled several MMC/SDF controlled villages to the west of Manbij.
PS – Turk proxies are also attacking villages South of Manbij at the villages of Jadida and Mustariha. So there is apparently not much beef to the theory of FARS news.
Correction – Gorhiko, Holash, Khalida villages, NOT Mustariha and Jadida.
Mike — You cut off FARS mid-sentence. To repeat the entire sentence (emphasis mine):
“The Syrian forces have liberated several towns South of Manbij in the last few days AND blocked ANY further advances of the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants towards Manbij, reconnecting Eastern Aleppo to its Northeastern parts after five years.”
If you want to dispute the assertion, okay, but this is not a “theory” as you term it; it’s a claim, an assertion. However, I’d need a little more than your say-so because FARS sources are on the ground, embedded with SAA forces.
Now if the FARS claim is correct, it’s possible that the US moved into Manbij to protect it from Turkish assault before they realized the SAA were capable of blocking Kurdish forces from Manbij.
If that’s the case, it suggests to me that the US is not communicating well if at all with the SAA/Russia — or that SAA trusts the US so little they are not forthcoming about their moves and have asked the Russians to keep quiet. Either way, the bad guys would be profiting from the confusion.
But assume for the sake of discussion that you’re right. This puts me back watching a badminton game, with an increasingly desperate Turkey batting a birdie around. Where are the rest of our dear NATO allies on hearing the threat to boot them from Incirlik, I wonder.
A word about the source you quoted: It says in Wikipedia: “Rudaw Media Network has been banned in Syrian Kurdistan due to its partisan news. US Department of State has described Rudaw Media Network as KDP-affiliated outlet.”
Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Rudaw isn’t a reliable source, but I tend to put a little more stock in FARS because its stake in the outcome of the war is even greater, I think, than the Kurdish one — and certainly that’s the case regarding the financial investment. And FARS can’t tell too many whoppers or the site will lose its propaganda value.
I left off the rest of the sentence because the key info was in their mentioning “South of Manbij”. Manbij and the surrounding countryside are still open to Turkish attack from the north, from the west, and from the southwest. That is obvious looking at a map of the SAA advance.
Yes, the SAA did cut off the Turks from advancing SE towards Tabqa and Raqqa. But Manbij is still open to the Turks. I doubt they will try though, except with their salafi surrogates.
You also mention the US prancing in Manbij with tanks? I would be interested in the source for that info. As far as I have seen the US special forces for the most part are using armored MRAP vehicles, not tanks. And most are deployed up by the Sajur River, north of Manbij City. Most probably to prevent Turk forces advancing on Manbij from Jarabulus. Although there are probably some advisors with the MMC/SDF in Manbij itself or further southeast closer to the fights with Daesh.
Regarding the Rudaw link. Here is a Turkish source:
Maybe it is BS, maybe not? I have no idea of the sol.org reputation.
But here is another from ARAnews, which is one of the main news sources of Syrian Kurds.
There are many more if you do a bit of googling or twitter searching.
MRAPs and Hummvees.
i inadvertently cut off the #2 Sputnik report above. And it’s “armored vehicles” not tanks. Here’s the quote:
“In particular, he said, US servicemen have set up a military base in the city and are sending an additional contingent there. They are also deploying heavy weaponry and armored vehicles to the area.”
That quote is from “A high-ranking representative of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who wished not to disclose his name …”
AMN 3/1 report “Standoff in eastern Aleppo as US troops face the Turkish Army across the battlefield” mentions “Meanwhile, a video emerged from an undisclosed site near Manbij depicting a convoy of coalition Humvees, supposedly US special forces.”
AMN has the video and pix
i have no idea whether these are the vehicles the unnamed SDF rep mentioned. Would they be considered ‘armored?’
Recall how tiny the Afrikakorps was, relative to the Eastern Front!
The fighting in Syria did not match the intensity and numbers of the combat in Donbass when the Kiev junta tried to do a deep encirclement right next to the Russian border, or their short encirclement attempt at Debaltsevo.
Now I have to go prepare for the coming civil war in Sweden.