Forget the Khanassar Road Block – clear the M5 south.


Courtesy of ISW we have this depiction of the state of play in NW Syria as of 25 January, 2016.    IS, Nusra and other jihadi groups have attacked the desert road from Ithriya east and then north through Khanassar north to Aleppo.  This is presently the lifeline to all government held forces in the Aleppo area as well as the civilian population of the government held portion of Aleppo City.  

The Syria civil war is not going well for rebel forces including the jihadi IS and Nusra.  The war is going so badly for the allies of Obama, the Saudis and Erdogan that  a diplomatic ploy is now underway to try to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat in the "cease-fire."

Apparently the preparations are nearly complete for a great kesselschlacht in Idlib Governorate.  The R+6 forces stand on the heights above Jisr as-Shugur on the west in Lattakia Governorate.  R+6 forces stand ready in the countryside west of Aleppo City.  R+6 forces are ready to the south in the Homs Governorate.  Russian and Syria air have complete air supremacy. 

The desert road is merely a distraction at this point.  The rebels should be crushed in Idlib and the M5 highway to the south opened to commercial traffic.

To do otherwise is to accept the BS being peddled on the diplomatic scene and a Syria that will eventually be a jihadi state.  pl

This entry was posted in As The Borg Turns, Current Affairs, Middle East, Russia, Syria. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Forget the Khanassar Road Block – clear the M5 south.

  1. Matt says:

    In my opinion, the US should be allied with the Russians in defeating ISIS. We should be allies, not adversaries.
    Why does the US keep pushing Russia’s buttons? Why do they keep moving NATO east toward their border?
    The Russians lost 25-27 MILLION people during WWII. There is still living memory of this, I’m sure, in Russia. How does the US expect the Russians to act when they pull shenanigans in Ukraine?
    How would the US act if the Russians moved back into Cuba?
    Where are the sane people running foreign policy in America?
    Enough with the BS, already.

  2. Jack says:

    The open question is if R+6 will be bamboozled by this diplomatic ploy and allow the jihadi coalition to snatch survival & the ability to fight another day from the jaws of annihilation. Or will R+6 press their hard fought battlefield advantage and destroy the jihadists in the Idlib kesselschlacht?
    How this question resolves will be indicative of the steeliness of Putin and I suppose Assad, Khamenei and Nasrallah.

  3. Barish says:

    I raised another place to make a thrust towards before, but how useful an objective would the air base directly east of Abd al-Duhur be? Looking at this map here:
    securing an alternate more major land-route could also be part of such an operation.

  4. Joe100 says:

    It appears that the Khanassar operations may be mostly about eliminating lots of jihadis. Sixty Russian airstrikes today are reported by AMN, noting that:
    “The Khanasser Plain is an air force’s dream, thanks in large part to its relatively flat land that provides little cover for their intended targets; it is also one of the reason’s why the Syrian Armed Forces have concentrated on bombarding the ISIS terrorists, rather than storming their defenses right away.”
    As I recall, Col. Lang recently suggested that the R+6 should “bring on” such ISIS attacks as an efficient way to reduce ISIS numbers.. | Al-Masdar News

  5. turcopolier says:

    “Col. Lang recently suggested that the R+6 should “bring on” such ISIS attacks as an efficient way to reduce ISIS numbers.” Absolutely! but the air attrition should not distract from what IMO should be the goal of crushing the rebels in the Idlib Pocket and connecting Aleppo to the south in a dependable basis. pl

  6. Kooshy says:

    Col. LANG
    M. K. Bhadradkumar has an article on Turkey’ Pakistanization because of Erdo’ policies. This is a terminology is supposedly used by a Turk opposition politician comparing what is happening to Turkey today with regard to her policy of supporting Syrian opposition jahadies, to what Pakistan did back in 80′ with supporting Afghan jahadi opposition. It’s an interesting analysis that I didn’t thought before. I was wondering if you had seen it, and what your thoughts are, since you know both these countries well.

  7. Cortes says:

    Is the date in the first sentence correct?

  8. Bill Herschel says:

    I watched Putin’s statement in its entirety (~5min).
    I have also read the lead editorial in the NYTImes. I quote:
    “However weak the West’s hand in Syria, Mr. Putin should not be allowed to believe that he can parlay support for a murderous dictator into respect for his power or acceptance of his cynical games in Ukraine.”
    I cannot express how despicable this editorial is. The NYTimes supports Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel in Syria. In other words, Al Qaeda. And, in fact, their goal is to remove Mr. Putin from power so that he can no longer challenge Al Qaeda or neo-Nazi’s in Ukraine.
    I do not expect to see the editorial board of the Times take up arms, go to Syria, and fight shoulder to shoulder with Al Qaeda. Nor do I expect Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Israel to do likewise. But I do expect them to insist that American citizens get wounded and killed to further their aims, just as they have been doing since Bush’s war in Iraq.
    So the question becomes, “Who controls the political process in the United States?” Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, or the American people? One candidate seems to be his own man. Donald Trump. Let us hope the American people realize they will be electing someone who holds their interest first and make him President. Unless he, too, is a bought and paid for liar.

  9. Cortes says:

    Thank you!

  10. MRW says:

    Great map. Beginning to understand all this stuff. 😉

  11. LJ says:

    Here’s an article from The Guardian portraying the RF/US cease fire as one in which Russia will have to step up or face sanctions. Question: the cease fire seems strange from any angle I can see.

  12. SmoothieX12 says:

    IS and al-Nusra will be annihilated no matter what. Basically cease-fire’s formula is next:
    1. Lay down the arms, you have the chance. If not, well…
    2. IS and al-Nusra (see the beginning of the post).
    3. We don’t know what real geopolitical cards are in play, behind the scene. I wish I knew, but we may not know for a while. Today’s activation of hostilities around Donetsk may give some hint.

  13. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Where are the sane people running foreign policy in America?”
    Those who are sane–they are blogging. Sadly, only insane are in the position of power and influence.

  14. BB says:

    Americans have two choices. A guy who has said the Iraq War was a mistake, says the U.S. should be allies with Russia, and says we should bomb ISIS and the jihadis in Syria. The other is a woman who gave us the Arab Spring, the regime change in Libya, and promises to arm and defend all jihadists fighting Assad. Oh, and declare no-fly zones and confront Russia.
    I met both of these individuals in my last job in D.C. One was very respectful and nice to little people who came up to him. The other always acted like Leona Helmsley on the rag, was unfriendly to people she came in contact with (separated by 2 large DSS & USSS security details), and treated people like sh*t.

  15. Bill Herschel says:

    A lot depends on whether Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich drop out. I don’t think Cruz is dropping out. He has really, really big money behind him provided by true believers. Rubio is the “Establishment” (read Adelson) poodle. And Kasich is going to wait for the mid-west primaries. Maybe that’s all wishful thinking, but if it happens, Trump is the nominee.

  16. Thirdeye says:

    Still some hilly country between the SAA positions in Latakia and Jisr as-Shugour, but there is a broad advance underway north and east of Kinsabba and it’s not going through a terrain fortress like the approach to Kinsabba. It has penetrated as far east as Barza Takhtani, about 5 km west of the slope overlooking the Al Ghab Plain and about 3 km north of Kibana.

  17. elaine says:

    Appreciate the map however it’s from Oct 2015; are the territories
    under influence &/or occupation still relevant?

  18. Big Mike says:

    Could it be the Silk Road and a Eurasian alliance?

  19. johnf says:

    From that Kerry/Guardian article:
    “John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said he will move towards a plan B that could involve a partition of Syria if a planned ceasefire due to start in the next few days does not materialise, or if a genuine shift to a transitional government does not take place in the coming months.”
    How many boots on the ground is Kerry going to need to impose a partition? Forgetting the unlikely event of a Turkish and/or Saudi invasion, I suppose he is talking about the Kurdish/SDF forces in the North East, which are at the moment advancing with some success on Deir Ezzor.
    The SDF might be amenable to an American protectorate but the Kurds? They are far more interested in linking up with their brothers in the West, an outcome bitterly opposed by America’s ally Turkey. I think a partition would be politically impossible for America and is a mere bluff, probably to shut Congress (at which Kerry was speaking) up.

  20. Mark Pyruz says:

    For reference purposes, the following URL and thread provides a number of street-level photo views of Syrian highways as they appeared shortly before initiation of hostilities:

  21. Old Microbiolgist says:

    Well said.

  22. Dmcna says:

    ISIS have kindly moved a large number of troops out of the defence of the Maskaneh plain to undertake this symbolic attack. Given this and the favourable terrain it would seem rude not to advance to Maskaneh and sever the Aleppo To Raqqa connection for ISIS. The rush to Raqqa seems to be diminished by diplomacy but delivering such a blow to ISIS now would still have numerous benefits.

  23. LondonBob says:
    Israel Shamir, whose works I have known of for years and whose quality of sources must be acknowledged, tips Palmyra up next. Israel was the first to break the news of the Russian intervention in Syria, before even this website.
    The last few days before the cessation of hostilities will allow Assad’s army to gain some ground in Aleppo area and to switch to the Southern front. I’d expect them to take Palmyra in the course of next few days (consider it a tip).

  24. Seamus Padraig says:

    For a good primer on post-Cold War I US strategy in Eurasia, read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s ‘Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives’ (1998).

  25. Seamus Padraig says:

    OT (perhaps).
    This is from AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA), a Shi’ite source, so take it for what it’s worth. But they’re reporting that:
    “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have urged their citizens to leave Lebanon or avoid travelling there.
    “The move on Tuesday came after Riyadh halted $4bn in aid to Lebanese security forces.”
    Can anyone else confirm this? If true, could Israel be planning some diversionary manoeuver into Lebanon? What would other potential explanations be? The article itself does not speculate.

  26. The Itryiah-Khanasser road is a mere side-show in the current events. For ISIS, it’s a chance to show their fanboys, they are still a power to be reckoned with, and to offer a narrative aimed at countering the (true) stories about the significant setbacks they have suffered of late.
    Besides being a PR-stunt, this ISIS counter-attack could best serve as a delaying tactic, because it will require R+6 to devote time and resources to closing the hole in their LOC and reinforcing their lines where they are most vulnerable.
    The whole thing might also be spun by R+6, in the sense that both ISIS and “indie” Jihad franchises (Jund Al-Aqsa and JMWA) have handed them a golden opportunity on a platter: the West is saying R+6 is not fighting ISIS enough, well have a look now ! The West is saying the R+6 should not attack the “moderates”, well have a look at who the moderates are coordinating with.
    Anyway, the whole thing is not going to distract R+6 from their main military objective which is the destruction of the terrorist nexus in NW Syria (Al Qaeda’s franchise “Jabhat al-Nusra” first, and any group associating with them, which means quite a lot actually).
    The “cessation of hostilities” agreement excludes these groups from any protection, so be sure, there will be something like a “Kesselschlacht” in Idlib, unless one side gives up before it happens. As for Aleppo itself, “end of days” scenarios (Stalingrad or Grozny type predictions) are vastly overstated. The city will gradually come under R+6 control and there is not much the rebels can do about it.
    Finally, it has to be recognized that R+6 are also trying to cause for an alliance shift among the YPG militias, which are being put in a position where they might have to chose between sticking with their US sponsors (who might be tempted to make a compromise with the Turks) and a new alliance with R+6, i.e. an agreement uncompromising with the Turks but providing for extensive political autonomy within a united Syrian State.
    As for the last part of the game currently being played, the race for Raqqa is shaping up but is being masked but preparations and discussions regarding the cease-fire. How quickly Raqqa will be the focus of attention depends on progress being made among other parties involved, bare AQ and Co. This is also why you see more and more of previously “moderates” showing their true colour and joining either AQ (al-Nusra) or ISIS. Good, will make things much easier on the ground !

  27. Barish says:

    I picked it due to its showing the more major road that runs north to south directly to Duhur’s east. North Hama-Southern Idlib hasn’t been a focal point of operations recently, but to get more of a sense of developments since December ’15, the beginning of ’16, I’ll add a couple more maps.
    First, situation in Southern Aleppo province in December 2015, also shows the place, Abd al-Duhur:
    Then, the North Hama theatre which is shown here, just a month ago:
    Finally, this map that focuses on the shutting down the Azaz-Aleppo rat-line shows that the government maintained gains south of Aleppo city:
    Abd al-Duhur and the air base to its east, along the more direct route from Tal Daman as per the December map, wouldn’t be far off from the front-line south of Aleppo city.
    Of course, the question of how viable this aim would be for an operation depends on how well the insurgents are dug in, how much personnel would be required and a host of other details only the Syrian troops and their allies are privy to.

  28. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    What appears to be hard evidence of cooperation between the Turkish government and ISIS has emerged.

  29. Serge says:

    There appears to be ongoing heavy clashes the environs of kanassar. This action is an instance in a pattern that stretch to the first 2 week occupation of the road in late October by ISIS and the(coordinated or not??) storming of the towns of Sadad and Huwareen in early November.
    In both instances,the Syrians rolled back ISIS within 2-4 weeks but not before suffering the bite of the initial casualties and materiel left behind. This front for the time being appears to be manned by conscripts and untrained locals at best, essentially the worst face of the oft spoken about “manpower crisis” that Assad faces.
    As Idlib inevitably closes up, the dearth of manpower will be no more for the government and I am sure that this eastern front of Syria will change even faster than the rest due to the nature of the terrain.As to what must be done with the native population afterwards is another beast.
    Of interest to note, these troops that IS used to attack the road, are they the troops freed up from the collapse of the pocket in the environs of Safira?

  30. elaine says:

    Thank you

  31. Fred says:

    These may be second line or even third line forces but the key thing is they were not routed and completely destroyed. “what must be done with the native population afterwards…” What iSIS is going to do to them and their people should ISIS win is exactly why they are staying on the government’s side.

  32. elaine says:

    Surfing I ran across a video Sept 2015 showing the FSA evacuating
    civilians from Idlib. It looked kinda rural

  33. Barish says:

    It mostly is. Population of the province prior to the war starting in earnest, as per guesstimate from 2011 picked up by the wiki-article, was 1.5 Mio. One can assume that, if anything, that number dropped since then.
    So some unit of the FSA did the sensible thing and got civilians out of there? Would you have a link?
    I recall al-Jazeera featuring several short video-clips of the Jaish al-Fatah, Army of Conquest, advance in the province in early 2015. The video-footage didn’t even once include such where people were seen cheering on their “liberators”, in fact I recall one where it was dryly reported that civilians were packing up and leaving as Jaish al-Fatah was moving on from the “liberated” area. Somehow, I can’t find those vids anymore searching for terms “Jaish al Fatah Idlib early 2015” or similar.

  34. Thirdeye says:

    Yes, the Tiger Force that did the sweep out of Kuweires is now fighting to clear the highway from the north.

  35. James Doleman says:

    Interesting piece from the UK Telegraph. Claims Turkish forces are 9 miles from Allepo and are shelling ISIS positions.

  36. Turks nine miles from Aleppo ? Take a map and a ruler and measure it out … there’s your answer !

  37. alba etie says:

    Seamus Padraig
    And his daughter Mika is channeling Sr Brzezinski every AM on Morning Joe – IO ‘s everywhere …

  38. alba etie says:

    Patrick Bazhad
    Huffington Post is reporting that there are French troops on the ground in Libya fighting ISIS . Maybe Huff Post needs to STFU eh ?

  39. JJackson says:

    I think you meant Mosul, if it was Allepo that would be news!

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not know how this could be received in Lebanon but Iranians would have field-day with this; there would not end to the jokes…

  41. FkDahl says:

    What, final protective fire?

  42. elaine says:

    Sorry, no link can I find…just recall I was doing a general
    search for “Idlib”. Obviously I lack your excellent research
    & documenting skills.

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