“Syrian Army in full control of Aleppo-Damascus Highway for first time 8 years” – TTG

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:10 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is officially in full control of the Aleppo-Damascus Highway (M-5) after eight years of battle. The Syrian Army said they captured the last points along the highway on Tuesday evening, when their forces took control of the strategic town of Khan Al-‘Assal and the nearby Rashiddeen 4 sector in southwestern Aleppo.

According to the Syrian Army, their forces were able to achieve this imperative victory after capturing several important sites in eastern Idlib, including the cities of Saraqib and Ma’arat Al-Nu’man. While the Aleppo-Damascus Highway is under their control, the roadway will not likely be reopened to the public until the Syrian Army pushes west towards the Turkish border.

The reason for this is due to the fact that the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and their allies from the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) still maintain a presence along the western part of the Aleppo-Damascus Highway. Furthermore, there are still grave concerns of a potential large-scale Turkish military offensive to reclaim the areas lost by the jihadist rebels over the last few weeks.  (AMN)


A lot went on in the last week to get to this point. I and other observers saw this clearing of the M5 as the objective of this phase of operation Idlib Dawn. The SAA is still on the offensive and may be aiming for more. One thing is for certain. The jihadis are having their asses handed to them.

Let’s look at the SAA’s progress in maps. I wish I could make one of those animated battlefield maps like the American Battlefield Trust created for many of our Civil War battles, but that’s beyond my reach.  You’ll have to settle for this series of borrowed maps along with my comments. Most of the recent action took place well north of Saraqib and Idlib.  The 25th Special operations Division continued to move north along the M5 forcing the jihadis east of that highway to retreat to avoid encirclement. The 25th linked up with the Republican Guard near Al Barfoum and Zerbeh along the M5 on 8 February. At that point, the 25th did the unexpected. They struck northwest from ICARDA agricultural research station towards Kafr Aleppo.


The axis of this advance took the high ground in the middle of the Idlib plain. It appeared the 25th was heading towards Kafr Nouran, Al Atarib and the Bab al Hawa Highway, Turkey’s main supply route to Idlib.


However, the 25th surprised everyone and pivoted northward Arnaz and the Highway 60 cutting that road on 12 February.


Perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised. Just prior to this pivot, the Russian and Syrian Aerospace Forces conducted heavy strikes against jihadist forces in the path of the 25th.


Meanwhile, Erdogan continued pouring in additional troops and equipment and threatening massive retaliation against the SAA. They established several new “observation posts” at Al Atarib and other points along the Bab al Hawa Highway leading to Idlib. The Turks and the SAA traded artillery strikes and more Turkish casualties were shipped back north of the border. Finally, on 10 February the jihadis began launching several counterattacks armed with Turkish equipment and supported by Turkish artillery.

The counterattack towards Saraqib began with a jihadi VBIED which was stopped by SAA fire before it could reach its target. The counterattack did not get far. Reports indicate the SAA was alerted to the impending attack by Russian reconnaissance aircraft. The SAA targeted the jihadis with BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers. Of the 80 attacking jihadists, 60 were killed and the rest wounded. Eight vehicles including Turkish supplied armored vehicles were destroyed. Infantry is the queen of battle. Artillery is the king of battle. And the king always puts it where the queen wants it.


The jihadists launched two other counterattacks towards  25th Division positions at Kafr Aleppo and Arnaz on 12 February. Both attacks were turned back in a matter of hours. The 25th immediately went on the offensive and captured two more towns. It seems the SAA has learned to consolidate on the objective… and then some. The jihadists failed to initiate another counterattack after these defeats until today. They tried again on the Kafr Halab/Kafr Aleppo front with the same results – over 100 dead jihadis and dozens of vehicles including at least four Turkish supplied APCs turned into smoking hulks. All this was done in an effort to secure the Bab al Hawa-Idlib road, an LOC critical to Erdogan’s and the jihadists’ desire to retain Idlib.


The 25th did not stop there. They took the Regiment 46 installation today on the way to Atarib on the Bab al Hawa Highway. A Turkish unit was surrounded at Regiment 46 

Things have also gone well on the Aleppo front. The 4th Armored Division steadily marched westward pushing the jihadis out of Aleppo’s suburbs in spite of the jihadis' extensive tunnels and well prepared fortifications.


It now appears another front has opened from the YPG and SAA held territory northwest of Aleppo pushing south into jihadi held territory. This is certainly not tank country, but it is also not fortified built up areas of the west Aleppo suburbs. If this push south is successful and the 25th captures Atarib and continues north, the jihadis will be encircled or forced to retreat. They will be far removed from Aleppo and pushed towards the Turkish border of Hatay. The map below shows a possible scenario, not actual progress.


Erdogan’s Ottoman dreams for Idlib will have to be rethought. My guess is that Erdogan regrets sending those 3,000 plus jihadi fighters to Libya. They were probably some of his better fighters. Well, life’s a bitch Tayyip.



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18 Responses to “Syrian Army in full control of Aleppo-Damascus Highway for first time 8 years” – TTG

  1. elaine says:

    Arwa Damon of CNN reported on children freezing to death in refugee
    camps in Idlib. Apparently the temp has fallen below freezing &
    some of the kids didn’t have shoes or coats.
    So many factions fighting in an area sounds like hell on earth for
    CNN also showed a small U.S. contingent in the midst of the chaos
    however I didn’t understand where they were or their mission.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Another great update, thanks TTG.
    I really get the feeling we are watching history in the making as the SAA & friends carve a swathe through what remains of occupied Idlib. I am sure the outcome will prove to be a great turning point in the balance of power in the ME. This makes it all the more fascinating, from the safe spectator’s standpoint.
    I wonder if we should see it as encouraging that the TSK has not directly engaged the SAA again, since the exchange of fire a few days ago that you describe. Perhaps this is the calm before the storm. I’d like to think Erdogan has carefully weighed the risks of going to war over the bones of his ancestors. However, I’m not at all sure that the rational actor model can accurately forecast the actions of a neo-Ottoman fantasist. We shall soon see I guess.

  3. turcopolier says:

    It remains to be seen of Pompeo and the other Ziocons can push turkey into war against Syria.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    On the subject of Pompeo’s efforts to goad Turkey into war, has the State Dept. scrubbed the designation of HTS from its website?
    Here is an archive of the designation of HTS as an alias of al-Nusrah Front – note the date.
    And here is the list of press releases by the Office of the Spokesperson covering the same period.
    The link was live a few weeks ago, as I saw it myself. Nusrah is still on the FTO list, but if I’m not mistaken, this looks like an attempt to whitewash HTS.

  5. JohninMK says:

    The moves by the SAA in our last diagram are, as you say, not in tank country. It is rugged mountains currently in the middle of winter. The SAAs best chance is that the militants are on the run with few supplies pre-positioned in the area as they would probably not have been expecting to have to defend it yet. Whilst they think that the best thing to do is to keep on moving west, before they get slaughtered. A problem might be that I read somewhere that there are a lot of Uygurs there who will martyr themselves.
    A long and costly operation doesn’t seem to be in the SAA plans currently.

  6. prawnik says:

    Gank ’em all, SAA!
    No doubt Pompeo and his merry band of neocons are whispering something like “you can’t let this Assad guy do that to you! You know what you gotta do? You gotta stand up for yourself, you gotta go on the attack! What are you, chicken?” in Erdogan’s ear.

  7. turcopolier says:

    IMO there is at least a 50% chance that jihadi resistance will collapse in Idlib Province if the pursuit is pressed hard enough.

  8. Morongobill says:

    The way the SAA is killing jihadists, a hundred here etc, perhaps they’ll rid the Turks of all of them. Maybe Erdogan is smart like a fox.

  9. Leith says:

    Thanks TTG – Looks like your scenario of an SDF/YPG push south from their Shahba district on a Bashmara axis along with an SAA push north may have started. The SAA has already taken al Mansoura just west of the Ring Road and the Wadi al-Gharbi. And there is plenty of bombing preparation in between the two points.
    Although Atarib may or may not be involved in this operation as there are reports (unconfirmed?) that the Turkey has put a large TKK unit in Atarib to defend it.
    The Turks have also sent a large TKK unit to block the M4 highway between Saraqib and Jisr al-Shigour. Probably to protect their Turkestani jihadi kinsmen there and the Syrian Turkmen that support them?
    What do you suspect will happen when the SAA gets close to the Idlib/Hatay border? Will Erdogan go ballistic and start an all out war, or will Lavrov calm him down.

  10. JohninMK says:

    I agree with you and there are signs that it is starting to happen as sites previously hard fought over west of Aleppo are now falling quickly.
    Also there are reports that the push south from the other side of the mountains towards Aleppo has stopped. It seems to me that this could be intentional to reduce SAA casualties. Perhaps its main function was to scare the shit out of all the terrorists east of it, encouraging them to flee west before it was too late.
    Do you have any comment on the potential effects of the Yemenis shooting down a Saudi Tornado? Commentators on the Russian site I follow seem to think that a Russian air to air missile fired from the ground probably did the job.

  11. JamesT says:

    The only threat to continued SAA success in my view is Erdogan deciding to take decisive action. I have been reassured by the article in the Jerusalem Post that Erdogan’s threats are just his attempt to get a better deal from Russia:
    That is good to hear.

  12. Leith,
    Heading to the border and the Bab al Hawa crossing is a big step. I don’t think the SAA will try that without a clear assurance from Moscow. I say that because taking Bab al Hawa would make the jihadi presence in most of Idlib untenable. Erdogan made strong efforts to block the SAA advance on the Bab al Hawa-Idlib highway as soon as the 25th made their thrust towards Kafr Aleppo. Those blocking efforts have only increased. I don’t know if Erdogan will go all in to resist an SAA strike towards the border. I also don’t know if the SAA is willing to chance it at this time without that assurance from Moscow.
    It looks like the jihadis are going to lose all their positions in west Aleppo fairly soon. In response, Turkey is shelling the hell out of SAA and YPG positions north of Aleppo. We’ll have to see if Erdogan is willing to go any further.

  13. JohninMK,
    I don’t think the shoot down of that Tornado will affect anyone except other Saudi pilots. They will now be scared shitless flying those skies. It was bound to happen whether it was a ground launched AA missile or a MANPAD. I have to admit, the idea of a ground launched air to air missile is pretty damned ingenious.

  14. JohninMK says:

    Indeed Colonel, the Yemenis are clearly lateral thinkers. The YeminiAF quickly lost all their aircraft to Saudi bombing but retained their stocks of munitions including AAM. They have used them since both as SAM and SSM, once they worked out how to launch them. This attack was a SAM not MANPAD as due to the height achieved. It may have been either old Russian stock or new Iranian copies, those AAM are a pretty good base to work from.

  15. J says:

    TTG, Colonel,
    Why o why does a spanner have to be thrown into something that’s working and achieving positive results.
    There was a spanner thrown in yesterday.
    Saturday President Trump held a phone call with Erdogan over Idlib. The two condemned the SA advance into Idlib, calling the military offensive with Russian support “unacceptable”. Last week the U.S. sent special envoy for the region James Jeffrey to Ankara, where he spouted support for “our NATO ally Turkey”.
    Damascus and Moscow have charged Turkey with protecting the terrorists operating in Idlib. They expressed their desire for an immediate halt to the fighting. 
    Appears that Turkey and D.C. aren’t happy with their approach.
    First Trump says we don’t have a bone in the fight, next CENTCOM CC countermands POTUS, this particular happened in the recent past. Now seems that POTUS now countermands himself.
    I’m sorry but this latest by Trump is causing whiplash.

  16. JohninMK says:

    Wow its looks as if the SAA have achieved another objective. A huge chunk of the area to the west and north west of Aleppo is now in their hands. Total collapse. Much celebration in the local population to have got rid of the plague of terrorists. No more artillery threat to Aleppo for the first time since 2012.
    Will they stop now or just keep going?

  17. Leith says:

    Thanks TTG
    Looks like that scenario you predicted has started to work. Finally pushed back the jihadi threat away from the Aleppo Ring Road in the city’s NW.

  18. Serge says:

    I believe you are referring to the US patrol that came under fire near Qamishli, by a Sunni pro-Government tribe.

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