Idlib update – 14 january 2017


" This map provides a general look at the current results of the Syrian Army’s advance in eastern Idlib, northern Hama and southern Aleppo. Government forces have liberated a large number of villages in the aforementioned areas and now are working to clear the militant-held pocket northwest of Khanasir. Seprately, the Tiger Forces are working to repel counter-attacks by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and to establish control over the strategic Abu al-Duhur airbase."  SF


 This is impressive stuff.  R+6 are carving up the Greater Idlib Pocket like a Thanksgiving turkey.  I see that a spokesman for the Kurdish SDF/YPG says that Kurdish forces will enter Idlib to participate in the destruction of HTS and friends.  It seems clear to me that the Kurds will fight on the government side if they enter the fight in Idlib.   This must really be a disppointment to CENTCOM.  pl

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31 Responses to Idlib update – 14 january 2017

  1. charly says:

    I believe it was always the plan for the Kurds to first clear up ISIS in the East and then use American or Russian planes to clean HTS in (parts of) Idlib to get a road to the sea.

  2. turcopolier says:

    You did notice all the fighting done by the SAA in the east? So, you think we and the Russians are going to create a corridor to the sea for the Kurds? Remarkable. pl

  3. Barbara Ann says:

    Meanwhile the Rojava project seems to be in full swing – the “Syrian” border is apparently now officially at the Euphrates:
    “Coalition retraining 15,000 veteran SDF fighters to serve as Syrian border force”

  4. JamesT says:

    Barbara Ann
    “… to maintain security along Iraq, Turkey and internal borders”. What chutzpah.

  5. J says:

    Don’t remember if I told you or not, but Russia is upgrading Tartus from a logistical berth to a full naval installation.
    By upgrading, they’ll be able to effectively monitor our 5th and 6th fleets plus be able to monitor our Aegis as they transverse the Baltic.
    Notwithstanding a logistical to fight terrorists throughout the Mideast.

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    Chutzpah certainly, but it seems more calculated than that to me. Why announce this news, which was surely guaranteed to drive an already furious Erdogan apoplectic with rage. It seems specifically calculated to deliberately push him to war proper with the Syrian Kurds – as he is now threatening, at any moment.
    Do you have a view on this announcement by CJTFOIR and the likelihood of Turkey finally making good on its rhetoric, particularly re action against Afrin and Manbij? Commentators here have always assumed US would ultimately choose Turkey over the Kurds, so what rationale could there be for such a gratuitous provocation?

  7. turcopolier says:

    barbara ann
    Probably in spite of CJTFOIR rather than with their agreement. My SWAG is that the Kurds are getting ready to come to some agreement with the SAG. This is part of the gradual rejection of the US by our “allies” now that IS is defeated. pl

  8. Kunuri says:

    As everybody says, Russians are great chess players, they plan 3 moves ahead. Perhaps that was their check move from the very beginning of their Syria involvement.

  9. Kunuri says:

    Erdogan has been preparing the public for an Afrin move vociferously for the last few days.

  10. Turkey plans assault on Kurdish enclave in Syria
    He’s threatened this before and it didn’t happen. But this time he may be serious.

  11. Barbara Ann says:

    He has and an invasion may happen anyway. But the question remains as to why CJTFOIR announced the border force thing (& why now, when tensions are so high). If you are trying to create a new Israel on the borders of a hostile nation, surely you would endeavor to do so by stealth – as much as possible. This move seems guaranteed to push Erdogan further towards Russia. Hanlon’s Razor would suggest it is merely very poor judgement, but if so it has to break some records.
    If Erdogan does move on the Kurds in Afrin & particularly in Manbij, which is contiguous with SDF territory, the US will find itself in the position of its proxies in full conflict with a NATO ‘ally’. I’d suggest that once US lawmakers see this, they may be rather less likely to sanction post-IS ops in Syria – i.e. the US could be forced out.

  12. turcopolier says:

    Yes, there could be a war between CENTCOM and Turkey. That would be an unpleasant surprise for Mattis and even more so for Trump. pl

  13. Thirdeye says:

    Kurdish road to the sea would be through either Turkey or SAA held areas. Look at the map.

  14. turcopolier says:

    Thank you. I had noticed that. pl

  15. Eliot says:

    Col. Lang,
    Are you imaging a scenario where the Turks order an attack, or incidental contact that results in war?
    – Eliot

  16. turcopolier says:

    I can’t read Erdogan’s mind. pl

  17. Thirdeye says:

    The article refers to a prospective attack on Afrin (NW), where US forces would likely not be involved. But if the US supported such an attack it would shred any trust between Kurds and the US elsewhere. Things could quickly get nasty north of the Euphrates.

  18. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Good to see you back.
    Unfortunately, given the nationalistic ethos of Turks, the current USA/YPG announcement plays into tayyip’s hand. he will milk this for all its worth with an eye to the upcoming election-just like the Jerusalem issue- but whether he will actually commit troops, as opposed to firing a few artillery rounds, is a different kettle of fish. I doubt he will do so unless he gets real, tangible, support from Russia.
    Be safe
    Ishmael Zechariah

  19. charly says:

    I know. It wasn’t a plan that made any sense to me outside of “we don’t want AQ or Assad to win so F*ck the Kurds”

  20. Charles Michael says:

    After repeatingly poking the Bear, are the US poking the Turkish Fox ?
    What if Erdogan lauched an attack on Afrin as a diversion ? and soon after on the SDF North east zone ? There the US could not interfere and the SAA + 6 even less.
    So either you would have SDF or/and Turks, most probably both gaining absolute control of parts of the Rojava.
    Under the benevolent eyes of the US and its 7 to 14 military facilities already located there.
    Espected results would be, in both cases and in all intermediary solutions, the dreamed partition: creation of a reduced Kurdish enclave, rejuvenation of the Turkish Ottoman empire.
    Mini Rojava under Turkish military pression and Ottoman resurection, not perfect but Erdogan could not ask for a better set-up for the time being.
    This thougt may explain the YPG newly will to cooperate with the SAA on Idlib.

  21. JamesT says:

    A Russian friend explained to me years ago how hard it is to get into the FSB. Only the top students with Masters degrees from the best Universities apply, the must pass very difficult entrance exams, and if they manage to get accepted – they then begin a 4 year advanced University degree at “KGB University”. The Russian “chess team” is made up of Russia’s best and brightest.

  22. GeneO says:

    Kurds also fought on the government side to help win the Battle of Aleppo in 2016.
    Erdogan is shelling Afrin and threatening an invasion probably in an attempt to keep the Kurds out of the peace effort in Sochi, which is scheduled in a couple of weeks on 29 and 30 January. He wants them to respond so he can brand them as aggressors and terrorists. Some Afrin Kurds have threatened him back, saying that if Afrin is invaded then they will take the war into Turkey. But it may be that is what Erdogan is counting on?
    The Russian response to Turkish opposition of Kurds attending Sochi reportedly has been to sugar coat it by saying they are inviting the multi-ethnic Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) and not just the Kurds. DFNS (also known as TEV-DEM) delegation reportedly will include some non-Kurds, such as Arabs, Turkmens, Armenians, Syriacs, Assyrians and Chechens, as well as the Kurds who support Kurdish political parties other than the PYD. But Kurds probably make up the largest contingent. And the PYD, which is Erdogan’s current object of animosity is the largest Kurdish political party within DFNS. So Erdogan sees through the charade.
    I suspect Russia has lost faith with Turkey, if they ever had any to start with. 1] The Turkish Army in Idlib is focused on Afrin and not on the jihadis. 2] There is speculation that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is working with the Turkish Army against Afrin. 3] In the recent drone attacks on Hmeimim and Tartus, the Russian military has confirmed that the drones came from Idlib and they are resentful of the Turkish focus on #1 and 2 above instead of the commitment they had made back in May at Astana. 4] Last week Turkish FM “summoned” the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to the Foreign Ministry and asked for their respective governments’ intervention to stop the Syrian army’s bombing of opposition forces. Seems they have forgotten that HTS was never part of the peace process.
    tarhets from Idlib and they are is polyethnic and home to sizeable ethnic Kurdish, Arab, Syriac-Assyrian and Turkmen populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Armenians, Circassians and Chechens

  23. Lemur says:

    Col., do you think there is a meaningful distinction between the Afrin Kurds and the rest? They’ve always appeared more pro-Russian, but perhaps that’s because they’ve had to be given their geography post Euphrates Shield.

  24. blowback says:

    The Kurds are handing another Russian ISIS terrorist over to the Russians no doubt for retraining along the same lines as jihadist terrorists handed over to the Saudis receive; attending a few lectures and receiving a flat and car.

  25. Kunuri says:

    Thank you, I suspected as much judging from their performance in international jousting arena.

  26. Kooshy says:

    With colonel’ permission,my 2 cents and openion, on the issues of Kurds is, Kurds of different tribes and regions, have no uniform policy and trust of each other so there can be no unity. Generally head of family/trib warlords (khans) take the best money offer they can and an small amount of that gets twinkled (sprinkle) down the rest of the trib and to no other tribe, this is even true with arms they revive from west. The cover is always independence to get as much nationalistic unity as they can. But everybody who knows the geography, demography and history of the region knows an independent Kurdistan is impossible even if you base the entire us airforce and army in the region. If the US want to make a separate Kurdish state in north east Syria she better make a plan for permanent stationing a large US troops there like in Korea and find a sustainable way to supply her forces over 4 hostile immediate neighbors. Kurds once again are just a US barging chip in possible Syrian bargaining (you read bartering) talks,

  27. Kooshy says:

    Btw even US doesn’t trust the Kurds, that is the reason unlike her Takfiri proxies US don’t give Kurds any measurable amount of anti tank or surface to surface missiles even in Syria, US knows before that be used against SAG it will be used against the other Kurdish trib. The reason Kurds had pull back from Kirkuk and other areas in Iraq was due not having equipment to fight against Iraqi PMU’ armored vehicles and Iraqi tanks parked outside of town.

  28. Kooshy says:

    I think Erdo possibly with Russian closing thier eyes to send a message to Kurds of north east and Americans, to see thier reaction and as warning shot over the bow, as how serious he is.

  29. J says:

    They’ll be able to effectively close the Baltic if they want to, and there won’t be much that NATO/D.C. will be able to do about it short of full blows exchange. Which I don’t see NATO/D.C. having the stomach for.
    Also, the Russians are in a position to shut down NATO if they so choose, through the employment of their Speznaz.

  30. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    An addition to the above:
    1-Headline @ (an opposition news source in Turkey) “ABD sold out the Afrin YPG” ( ; in Turkish).
    2-Same news reported in ZeroHedge: “In response to news of the impending Turkish invasion, US Coalition spokesman Col. said Tuesday of the Syrian Kurds in Afrin, “We don’t support them, we have nothing to do with them.” Dillon explained further when pressed by Turkish state media journalists, “We are not operating in Afrin. We are supporting our partners in defeating remaining ISIS [Daesh] pockets along the Middle Euphrates River Valley, specifically in areas north of Abu Kamal, on the eastern side of the Euphrates River.” ( )
    This game is deeper than I can read. Maybe Col. Lang or TTG can comment.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  31. Barbara Ann says:

    Ishmael Zechariah
    Both of those articles seem based on this one which refers to an (unpublished) statement Dillon is supposed to have send to Anadolu Agency. The headlines ‘US has sold out Kurds’ and ‘massive invasion’ seem a stretch given that Dillon’s comments appear to simply factual confirmation that US has no train and assist with Afrin Kurds.
    I think this article may provide a more accurate picture of what we could now expect in Afrin & maybe Manbij. Plenty of fire and fury (including air power) but interestingly no mention of a ground incursion. The Turks seem very keen to go to war in print before committing to the real thing.
    It is my suspicion that the US may actually now be goading Erdogan into a full conflict with the Kurds, but the rationale eludes me. I agree a professional analysis from the Colonel or TTG would be very welcome.

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