End game in Aleppo


"The Syrian army is advancing inside the Handarat Refugee Camp south of the Mallah Farms area near Aleppo city.

The operation followed the liberation of the Bani Zeid neighborhood of Aleppo city that allowed the Syrian army and the Kurdish YPG to unite the front against jihadi groups in Syria."  South Front


Rebel held Aleppo is approaching its end.   the government has announced three paths out of the rebel held area for the movement of civilians into government controlled territory where the government says it will "accommodate" them temporarily.  The government has also announced a three month amnesty for rebels.  I presume there will be some triage of those surrendering.  pl 



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37 Responses to End game in Aleppo

  1. Geo says:

    With all the open ground to east and west the SAA already looks already to have a defensible postion on its encirclement. I expect that Handarat Camp will fall and the easterly frontline become the Qweiq river. From there people talk of the SAA going for Sakhur or Anadan but these moves will involve a lot of casualties. I wonder if a westerly encirclement of the Anadan plains is a viable option. Does anyone know if the terrain or any other reason makes this a bad plan?

  2. Poul says:

    The rebels must have manpower shortages too since their counter-attacks north of Aleppo were so feeble.
    Just up:
    The pressure from Russia has caused Jabhat al-Nusra to declare that they no longer are a part of al-Qaeda. In the hopes of avoiding more bombings no doubt.
    But is it with the blessings of Ayman al-Zawahiri

  3. What’s the military imperative now? Lay siege and wait (France and Britain are howling for an end to the siege already) or continue the attack?
    Once the siege is resolved favourably, is a huge rollback in the Idlib province a matter of time or wishful thinking?
    If it were me I’d immediately consolidate my hold on the city for its symbolic value, and to prevent nasty surprises like a massive terrorist assault to reopen the Corstello Highway.

  4. turcopolier says:

    I am gong to hope that some of you analyze the terrain and military situation at Aleppo for the rest of us. I am a bit distracted. pl

  5. Trey N says:

    Poul said… “The rebels must have manpower shortages” and “The pressure from Russia…” while RenegadePrimate worries about “a massive terrorist assault”.
    RP need have no worries because Poul is correct. Economic and other pressure on Turkey from Russia after the Su-24 attack has finally taken its toll, and Erdogan has had to throw up his hands and beg “no mas!”
    Among the price he will now have to pay to save himself (and Turkey) is closing the border to the liver-eaters. The writing is on the wall for them, and they know it.
    Now, the problem is kill all the rats in the trap and not let any get away to continue the evil Borgist program elsewhere in the world….

  6. Peter says:

    Agree completely. I foresee a bit of a problem with Assad granting general amnesty and a “return to civilian life” for any Syrian liver-eater who is willing to completely surrender. I mean it’s great that he is willing to compromise while the other side is just going to saw your head off, but I hate the idea that some of these vermin will use this as an opportunity to blend in and escape.

  7. Yes I’m anticipating a major Turkish pivot after the Putin Erdogan summit next month.
    The basic conundrum the Sultan faces (thanks to foreign policy adventurism) is choosing between neo-ottoman ambitions and Kurdish separatism/irredentism. Since the latter is existential to Turkey’s territorial integrity, eventually he has to abandon the former. Without Russia and Iran supporting Assad reigning in the YPG, he’ll be facing a de facto independent Kurdish state on his Syrian border.

  8. Harry says:

    But they have removed AQ, so now they must be released.
    One would hope the Russians don’t permit their escape.

  9. JJackson says:

    Could the Borg be desperate enough to buy this re-branding as cuddly grazing Unicorns? I don’t believe the the R+6 will even consider changing their position. The KSA, on the other hand, will probably be pushing for the new entity not to automatically inherit JaN’s terrorist status.

  10. Ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Per. John Helmer in Moscow the pivot has already occurred.

  11. Barish says:

    “I wonder if a westerly encirclement of the Anadan plains is a viable option. Does anyone know if the terrain or any other reason makes this a bad plan?”
    It would probably be rather difficult to carry that out as the area to Anadan’s west is rather hilly country. If your device can handle it, you can see for yourself on this interactive militarymaps.info map here:
    To have a less hardware-intensive option to check the terrain, see wikimapia here south of Tamurah, a point to Halab’s northwest which was captured by SAA and allies back when the siege on Nubl and al-Zaraa was lifted back in February:
    For areas of control see this map here made by edmaps, showing the front-lines as of July 27:
    Not yet considered in the ed-map is the huge, rapid collapse of the insurgents in Bani Zaid-district, directly to the west of Kurdish Sheikh Maqsood-district within the urban demarcation of Aleppo-city that fell to SAA during the night from July 27-28. Mighty impressive work by SAA and YPG, even though the headless assault by the insurgents on Sheikh Maqsood directly preceding said complete rout suggests that the “unicorns” gathered there were just that: completely bereft of capable command/ “brains” for a sustained hold-out there and/or completely unprepared for the doors slamming shut on the Kastilu-route.
    Meanwhile, the area adjacent to the Gaziantep-highway, from Bilayramoun-district to Bayanoun, would probably be difficult going for SAA to take. On the other hand, if RuAF, SyAAF and their ground artillery can keep up the pressure here beyond Fatah Halab’s breaking point, as was the case in Mallah fields, Layramoun industrial and Bani Zaid districts, they might fall yet along with a good number of unicorn-crews gathered there. What is also important to watch, however, are the forces the unicorns of Jaish al-Fatah gathered to the south between Khan Tuman and Tal al-Eis, what their next move is and how SAA and allies are going to react to that.

  12. turcopolier says:

    ” … kill all the rats in the trap and not let any get away to continue the evil Borgist program elsewhere in the world….” Yes. Once the jihadis are eliminated the city IMO will not be hard to hold as people, even die hard Sunnis will want to get back to real life. In that circumstance a drive into Idlib would be appropriate. pl

  13. Nick Smith says:

    FYI, the link to the podcast in your main page header is dead right now. The premise of your novels is intriguing, would love to hear the interview.
    I’ve referred a few friends here over the years, many of whom otherwise wouldn’t read up in detail about all this stuff, and usually they tell me they can’t believe how informative and no nonsense all the writing here is. Thanks very much, and keep up the good work.

  14. turcopolier says:

    What premise is that? Is it that the Confederates thought their secession was legal and that their resistance to foreign invasion was moral and constitutional? Have you read the books? pl

  15. different clue says:

    Yes, the Borg would buy this re-branding. And then the Borg will try selling this rebranding to all their captive publics. ” The evil Lavrov accepts that they are now Democratic Opposition, so it MUST be true!” The question for me is why would any RussiaGov thinker-doers believe that al Nusra means it?

  16. different clue says:

    Trey N,
    If I haven’t misunderstood a comment just a little above yours, hasn’t Russian pressure led al Nusra to declare itself to be Democratic Opposition now? If Russian pressure achieved that re-branding, wouldn’t that mean that Russian rebranding will allow the Nusroids to escape deletion, and run away to hide till they can jihadify another day?
    If I am understanding correctly, why would Russia do that? To speed up the Liberation of Syria? And about all the escaped al Nusras . . . well fiddle dee dee? They’ll worry about that tomorrow?

  17. oofda says:

    Hope you and yours are well….

  18. Brunswick says:

    R+6 military pressure, and ongoing political pressure, got the US OIR after 8 months to admit that “maybe” al Nusra and it’s allies were viable targets under the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
    The Saudi/GCC Jihadi Headchopper Sponsors and their allies in the West, have been suggesting for almost a year, that al Nusra “rebrand”, so that they could try to “duck” the terrorist lable and take their place at the trough of ouside weapons and money flooding into Syria to topple Assad and sunder Syria.
    The most recent pressure of getting their assets kicked by the R+6, and the brilliant R+6 program of making it brutally clear to the US OIR, that the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement matters,
    Has caused al Nusra to rebrand in the “hopes” that move will get them out from under the R+6 sights and somehow under the warm, protective arms of the US OIR.
    “Pushed to define “other terrorist groups,” Lavrov said: “If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?”
    I doubt that the Borg are going to be able to sell the “rebranding” to the P.T. Barnum US public enough, or the UNSC, to have this “rebranding” make a difference.

  19. Gabriel says:

    SST readers,
    I’m still working on an earlier stage of the fighting, so what follows will not be enormously illuminating, but it might add a few oob details that are not often reported in summary pieces.
    As I think this map (http://www.agathocledesyracuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Aleppo-28-July-2016.jpg) shows rather nicely, there were essentially two sequential operations in what has become an envelopment, one in the north, the other in the South, each built around one of the fully-capable regime. units
    (Incidentally, I imagine Agathocle de Syracuse known to those of you who follow Syria, but allow me to recommend it for anyone looking for a one-stop place to keep track of the fighting. Do see his latest interactive, ie pan-zoomable, map here, http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/fr/map/desyracuse-syria-civil-war-15-july-2016_94438#10/36.1517/37.3233)
    * The first one, which I think Col Lang discussed in an earlier post, occurred from the north and was carried out by the Suheil al Sahan’s “Tiger Forces” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Forces), which had some experience of operating in the general area north of Aleppo (they spearheaded the relief of Kuweires airfield last year, and then were at the center of the push northwest that created the Al-Bab pocket north of the city). These were able to achieve direct observation of this “Castello Road” leading towards rebel-held Aleppo after they captured the Al-Mallah farms directly north of it.
    Since at the time it was reported that the unit was only being supported by Iraqi Shia militias of the Kataeb Hezbollah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kata%27ib_Hezbollah), I was pretty sure that, as with earlier offensives, attacks against these weaker units would force the first-line Tiger Forces to withdraw from occupied territory. Now, I’m not sure if this was not attempted, but as far as I saw the rebel forces focused on trying to push back the Tiger Forces directly, rather than creating crises on the flanks, something they’d done with *some* success south of Aleppo in late 2015 and again one or two months ago These attacks were successfully (if possibly not without cost–there was some see-saw fighting for a time) repelled.
    * The second, and much more surprising to me, advance by the SAA was an attack out of roughly what shows up in the map as “Khalidiyeh”, this one organized around units of the 4th Mechanized Division (unfortunately I don’t know which sub-unit, since the 154th brigade reportedly recruited out of Aleppo Sunni Muslims), but with the support of the Palestinian Liwaa al-Quds (it was on suspicion of being a member of this that that kid was recently decapitated by one of the rebel groups) and local militia NDF units, which for Aleppo appear to be above-average in quality (they performed perfectly well in open field conditions in late 2015 in areas east of the city). To refer again to the map, you’ll see this (alongside supporting Kurdish advances out of Sheikh Maqsoud, is what completed the link-up between the two pincers and created the encirclement we’re talking about today.
    It’s the success of this second attack that puzzles me the most and that I hope to look into more closely in the coming days. Independently of truisms about urban warfare, I’ve mapped how earlier gains/losses in this exact area usually measured in single buildings. Secondly, I imagine many of you have seen the 2012-14 videos of SAA mechanized formations operating in cities–unaccompanied tanks powering to some intersection, firing the main gun, then reversing back, no infantry ever in sight. So that now even a first-line SAA unit being able to take an entire neighborhood so quickly very unusual (fighting in Damascus a concurrent example of what has been the norm).
    To use a conjecture-refutation phrasing, what I’ve picked out from the above is the following:
    (1) Have the rebels/opposition/etc. around Aleppo become significantly weaker in June 2016 than they were even in February? If you remember, sometime in the second quarter of the year (sorry, really can’t remember the date), they were able to launch this counterattack south of Aleppo that recovered some very hard-fought gains of the SAA earlier in the year, as it happens from Iranian and Iraqi shia militias. I remember some commentators speculating that the entire late 2015 gains would be erased. Suddenly, however, the surplus of fighting power the non-ISIS rebels seemed to have to attack weak spots seemed to vanish, so they were staking everything on direct attacks against first-line forces (like the Tiger Forces in the Malah farms). As was said about Transylvania in the Thirty Years’ War, the rebel forces in the area seemed to be “a torrent without a source.” There were always enough of them to mount credible attacks in secondary areas. This (as far as I very barely know) has not happened, or at least not in any scale that would capture villages and make people worried.
    (2) Are enough elements of the SAA (including militia/paramilitary units) getting better enough for Assad to have something like a balanced army, or at least not a few good units lost in a sea of inscrutable-quality militias that can suddenly break when pushed? Some commenters above have posted satellite images of the areas captured by the SAA from the south–highly built up. I’d also like to see if there were failed attacks against flank-holding militia units in the north–maybe there weren’t (which would further suggest that (1) is correct and, for whatever reason, combat power of rebels in Aleppo area much weaker than it had been even a few months ago.
    (3) Has Russian air support intensified significantly? I haven’t seen that it has, but then again I haven’t looked into the question. There were reports of course of Russian air-strikes in Aleppo area, but these in the past could be quite anemic (some of their gunships strafing the area, etc.). I bring this up because it’s the only other factor I could think of at the moment why, north of Aleppo, SAA suddenly so strong and Opposition suddenly so weak (even in the minimum sense of being to *do* things outside where the fighting was happening that particular day/week), or at least latter not nearly as strong as they’d shown themselves to be in the very recent past in that area.
    And that is all. Please don’t read any hint of authoritativeness in any of the above. I wrote it as someone who paid enough attention to the events in question to be able to supply the kind of detail that’s bulked up this post, but has nowhere near the time (much less capacity) to make sure that said details are accurate, much less such conclusions as I draw from them.

  20. Henshaw says:

    Idlib is conservative Sunni territory, and rebel heartland. Many Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian members of rebel groups come from here. Blockading it by closing off the supply routes from Turkey would probably be a more effective use of resources.
    Capacity of terrorists to re-open the Castello Highway would depend on the degree of support they have from Turkey- this remains an unknown, although some rebel leaders are calling ‘game over’ in light of Turkey’s post-coup attitude shift and the impending loss of Aleppo. In any case, an assault would attract the immediate attention of the RuAF.

  21. I’d read that article. Agree mostly. However, I’d make a couple of observations.
    1. The sultan doesn’t WANT to terminate the head-chopper support operation. Exigent circumstances are forcing his hand, which includes Russian pressure. So Turkey is curving rather than pivoting. Thus the conference, where no doubt Putin will make some points abundantly clear to his counterpart, will be part of a graduated process.
    2. Explaining the pivot to the Islamized masses that threw themselves in front of the tanks for Sultan and Allah may be difficult. Could lead to implementation problems.

  22. turcopolier says:

    Good work. I, too, have wondered with what forces the Syrians at Mallah Farms and beyond now are securing the flanks of their penetration. pl

  23. turcopolier says:

    I hope/doubt that the R+6are going to buy the idea of sheep dipped Nusra being different that what it was. pl

  24. turcopolier says:

    We are OK. I misplaced the key to the refrigerator in my outdoor kitchen extension and spent the day searching the house for it, hoping that I would not end like the woman in the dementia commercial by finding the key in the refrigerator. I did not and ordered a new key or two from the manufacturer. pl

  25. Peter Reichard says:

    It is hilarious to think that Nusra’s road to Damascus could be paved by anyone actually believing they underwent a sudden “road to Damascus” conversion into moderate rebels. Just shows how desperate they are.
    Assad’s generous offer of amnesty is an important tactic towards the all important goal of getting Aleppo’s liberation over quickly for its morale boosting and media narrative effects but especially to free up troops for use elsewhere.

  26. Vic says:

    I do not expect any universal rebel surrender or amnesty in Aleppo. I do expect various factions independently attempting to “cut a deal” with the Syrian Army. The first group to do so will have an advantage (a chance at survival). The last group holding the bag in Aleppo loses everything. Maybe the renaming of JN is a first step towards such an action.
    If this is happening look for a general cessation of hostilities as talks start, local rebel on rebel attacks, shifting of unit boundaries, changes of unit commanders and other similar activity.

  27. Gabriel says:

    Update 1: A little after the 1:25 mark in this Southfront.org video, it’s reported that the opposition is massing forces south of the city for an attack on Al-Hadher (pan-zoomable map centered on it here, http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.988841&lon=37.057915&z=12&m=b&permpoly=15652880).
    This was one of the key gains of the regime’s offensive in the area in October-November 2015.
    The wildcard here are the SAA forces deployed there. Formally or informally, the area south of Aleppo seems to be roughly an Iranian AO, with a assortment of Shia militias from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and a very shadowy “65th Special Operations Brigade” from the regular Iranian Army (https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/iranian-special-forces-arrive-aleppo/). In the past, these foreign Shia militia units have generally been what ww2 Germans called “conditionally capable for defensive tasks,” i.e. liable to buckle under a strong attack, and generally unable to counter-attack. It was collapses by these units that allowed the rebels to recover some important towns in this area in May (http://www.agathocledesyracuse.com/archives/776). If Hezbollah (see update 2 below) units present to backstop these militias, then the rebel offensive will probably not succeed, but Hezbollah units apparently committed to fighting in Aleppo, so unclear to me whether they also have a presence south of the city.
    Update 2: Hezbollah units important in SAA pincer that’s closing the pocket from the south (refer to again http://www.agathocledesyracuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Aleppo-28-July-2016.jpg), http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950505000645. This makes the significant advances achieved in such built-up areas significantly more understandable. Besides quality of Hezbollah infantry, it’s had a fairly long and positive experience of working in cooperation with armor from the 4th Mechanized.

  28. Trey N says:

    Brunswick’s excellent reply seems to have answered all your concerns. The only thing I can add is that I seriously doubt the “rebranding” will hinder Russia from continuing to bomb the living hell out of the liver-eaters, whatever they choose to call themselves….

  29. Tigermoth says:

    The US to send in 3000 SF for Raqqa battle?
    “US President Barack Obama ordered to send 3,000 special forces for an operation at the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Sky News Arabia TV channel reported, citing the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk.
    McGurk noted that ater the liberation of Manbij which is considered the main transport hub of ISIS, the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa will become the next target. He also added that Barack Obama has ordered to deploy “3,000 Special Forces soldiers for this purpose.”
    Kurdish / Arab infighting hampering SDF?
    “Then, the US and the SDF stuck under Manbij. Furthermore, a fighting between the Kurds and the Arabs has started inside of the SDF. The Kurds blamed the Arabs for cooperation with ISIS supporters (for example, Arab SDF units allegedly allowed ISIS suicide bombers to enter into the rear area of the Kurdish troops). The fighting with heavy weapons lasted for three days.”

  30. turcopolier says:

    I don’t know what is meant by Special Forces here. There are no more that 5,000 Green Berets (true US Army Special Forces) These are deployed all over the world and to use them as assault troops wuold be a terrible waste. Maybe Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment are included in that number. They ae organizationally under JSOC and are assault infantry. JSOC SWAT team guys like SEALS and DELTA would similarly be wasted as assault troops. Maybe here are some marines in this total. pl

  31. Brunswick says:

    It’s not the R+6 I’m worried about.
    It’s the Borg trying to sell “us” on the rebranding, that I worry about. 4 months of haliographies by the NYT on the “moderate” al Sham could have an effect on US/NATO policies after the election.

  32. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized today that no matter re-branding they still will be hunted down and eliminated. Link in Russian:

  33. different clue says:

    Thank you.

  34. different clue says:

    Trey N,
    Good. I hope they can be too killed off to be recoverable if Clinton gets installed. Because if they seem the least bit revivable, the Clinton Administration will do its desperate best to revive them. Pray the R + 6 can wipe them out so totally before Inauguration Day that there is nothing left of them for a President Clinton to save.

  35. Peter says:

    Reports today about rebel infighting in eastern Aleppo. It looks like you were spot on about various factions looking to cut a deal.

  36. Henshaw says:

    Kurdish/Arab tension is inevitable in this region given the separatist intentions of the Kurdish leadership. I have heard via Syrian friends that the Kurds are limiting movement of local civilians in the Menbij-Tishreen area. Those who left their homes in the region to avoid earlier fighting are allowed back on the condition that they remain there and cannot leave again.
    Some see this as a preventative measure against Daesh intelligence gathering; others see it as the thin end of an ethnic-cleansing wedge.

  37. Poul says:

    Another end game is in the making in East Ghouta. The Army of Islam and it’s allies are slowly being squeezed.
    Latest map.
    from january

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