" Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Thursday.
Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria's Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.
"We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks," Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity." NY Times
Before this transfer of rebels to Azaz, there were only a limited number of rebels (unicorns and jihadis) in Idlib province between the R+6 forces at Aleppo, as well as farther south astride the Damascus highway (the M5) and the R+6 forces in east Lattakia Province.
The Turks have now cooperated with the Idlib rebels in moving 2,000 fighters from Idlib Province to the Azaz pocket north of the R+6 force that obstructs movement of rebel supplies and forces from Turkey south into Aleppo Province.
The 2,000 moved into Turkey's Hatay Province through a normal border crossing post and then their convoys were escorted north and then east so that they could re-enter Syria in the Azaz Pocket.
Good! The Turks' role is fully transparent and there are many fewer rebels (mostly jihadis) in what will be seen in history as the Idlb Pocket as the situation progresses. The effectiveness seen thus far in the over all campaign planning demonstrates the effect of the high quality schooling that Russian officers have been receiving in their service schools as well as experience of the kind gained in the 2nd Chechen War.
I would think that for the present support to the YPG Kurds fighting around Azaz will be limited to the continuation of the Russian air defense umbrella to keep the Turkish air force out of the fight and provision of as much materiel support as can be mustered. The Azaz Pocket can await elimination until other phases of the over all plan are finished.
For the moment the action farther east of the R+6 forces in moving to take Tabqa air base and in so doing to cut IS off from re-supply, reinforcement and oil sales in Turkey is a critical, possibly decisive move against IS in Syria. The YPG Kurds have already closed the route to Turkey east of Lake Assad. Closure of the two routes to the northwest would probably force IS back into Iraq because of a lack of communications and re-supply routes. A good deal of care will be taken I would think to guard against IS counter-attacks to try to break the interruption in their LOCs, but R+6 total air supremacy over desert country should be able to deal with that problem.
The present fighting in the city of Aleppo itself is, IMO, more of a distraction than anything else. The city will fall of its own weight if it is completely isolated for an extended period. If the government is wise it will allow humanitarian relief of the rebel occupied parts of the city while encouraging defections and evacuation of remaining rebel forces. pl