Military Events in Syria and Iraq thread #3

Discussion in 'World Events' started by Yazata, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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  3. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Yesterday as well as today the Syrian army has continued its advances toward Al Bab, taking several villages:

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    namely Dayr Qaq, Tuman, Birat al Bab and Shamawiyah.

    A problem appeared: near the place where they have met the pro-Turkish forces, some firefights between the Syrian army and these pro-Turkish rebels have been reported. It seems, even Turkish artillery supported the pro-Turkish rebels, and the Russian airforce the Syrian side. As the result, a Russian bomb has hit some Turkish soldiers, three dead several more wounded. This resulted in a phone call between Putin and Erdogan with official admission that this has been done by the Russian airforce by accident and condolence.

    It is not implausible that all this was really by accident, everybody thinking they are shooting at Daesh, such things happen. But, as well, not completely implausible that at least some of this fighting was intentional. One should not forget that these pro-Turkish rebels have a long history of fighting Assad forces, and what prevents fighting is only a political cooperation between Putin and Erdogan. And, from a military point of view, it is important for the Syrian army to control the road to Aleppo. Nobody knows when the next attack against Aleppo starts, and when this happens a fast connection to Aleppo is important.

    Other things: A surprise attack by some pro-Turkish group in Latakia, looks like without success, at least yet. A special operation of SAA in Jobar against an Al Qaida headquarter, unknown but probably high number of killed jihadists.

    And a lot of fighting between different terrorist factions in Idlib. Here one can, of course, wish success to above sides. But it would be, of course, preferable if the more moderate win. Unfortunately, it seems that Al Qaida is winning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
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  5. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The battle for Al Bab is continuing. The pro-Turkish forces, afaiu together with the Turks, are entering the city again. The Syrian army has taken the last village before Tadef named Abo Taltal:

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    So Tadef is now already under fire control. But in Tadef there will be the hard defense line of Daesh.

    An interesting thing is that some Kurdish towns have signed a reconcilation agreement with the Syrian army. Among them towns Tal Rifa’at and Mennagh https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/kurdish-towns-reconcile-syrian-government-aleppo/ The town Tal Rifa'at as well as Mennagh are near the frontline between the Kurdish and pro-Turkish forces, and there have been, during the last time, some attacks on them from the pro-Turkish side. So, now the Syrian army takes control of them. Mennagh is also important for having a military airport, which can become useful in the future. So, the Afrin Kurds obtain a much better protection against the Turks, with an important part of their frontline now becoming part of the Syrian frontline. This seems very good news for reconciliation between Kurds and Syrian government in the future too.
     
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  7. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Already the second day the Syrian army has started a new direction of attack against Daesh, namely toward the East.

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    Why this is done is not clear, there are several possible explanations. First, simply taking what can be easily taken given that the defenses are weak. Actually, it makes not much sense to defend such villages with a lot of power, given that Al Bab is under attack and Deir Hafer may be endangered in near future too. So, why not trying?

    Then, it may be the start of a greater offensive toward the Euphrat, or toward the Manbidsh Kurdish forces. This would close the way for the pro-Turkish forces toward Raqqa. If they don't want war with Russia, their only way would be through the Kurdish region, the pro-American part. An idea which some Russian guys have commented with "wish success to above".

    Or, another possibility, this is part of an offensive to take Deir Hafr, which is, after Al Bab, the last big town in that region. Last but not least, what has been taken was part of the main street from Al Bab to Deir Hafr.

    Bad news from the South, Daraa. The terrorists have started a powerful offensive, and, during the second day of this offensive, taken some buildings.
     
  8. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The Syrian army attack toward the East continues, two villages and a hill have been taken:

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    The direction of the offensive remains unclear, but it seems now more directed toward Deir Hafr than toward the Euphrat.

    Near Palmyra, there has been a lot of fighting during the last days around the Hayyan gas fields. The Syrian army had already liberated them, but then were was a Daesh counterattack, and they have given up the gas fields themselves. Now they have been taken again: https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-liberates-hayyan-gas-fields-west-palmyra-2/
     
  9. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    And the Syrian army continues its advance in Eatern Aleppo, the direction is now toward Deir Hafr.

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    Yesterday, they have taken two more villages (North of the rectangle), during the night or so they have taken Shuweilekh (the rectangle) and today they have taken an important hill (the yellow circle), which gives them fire control over the nearby villages. There are also reports about air attacks against Rasm Al-Imam (East of the rectangle).

    So, actually the whole offensive looks like being directed against Deir Hafr, the big town in the lower right angle, some 5 km away yet.

    But one should not forget that there is also a strong interest in control of the canal which connects the Euphrat with Aleppo, (goes also through the rectangle). This canal is important for the water supply of Aleppo, and Daesh makes a lot of problems with this, because to get water from the Euphrat, there have to be used pumps here. To the Euphrat, there would be around 30 km, thus, yet a lot of work. In the same direction, there is also the Jirah airbase, which is also an interesting target.
     
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Iraqis appear to have started a new offensive against the western half of Mosul that ISIS still holds, pushing from the southwest under cover of artillery and US air strikes. If this map is to be believed, they have made quite a bit of progress on the first day.

    http://www.edmaps.com/Iraq_Battle_for_Mosul_February_19.png
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It appears that the Iraqis have attacked the town of Abu Saif immediately south of Mosul airport. (See the map in the post above.) Airstrikes were observed Monday morning then ground forces moved in. (Counter-terrorist police and regular army. In Iraq, the special police are often better and more dogged fighters than army conscripts.) Reportedly the Iraqi troops control part of Abu Saif, but the Iraqis' main attention is on a hill nearby that overlooks the approaches to the airport.

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/0...-into-isis-held-southern-outskirts-mosul.html

    Small numbers of US troops in armored vehicles were observed moving forward with the Iraqis. That's a change, since under Obama US advisors were typically restricted to headquarters and were kept away from the fighting. Apparently Trump has authorized them to advise smaller forward units even if that increases the risk of US casulties. I'd guess that some of the Americans might also be forward controllers to designate air and artillery targets to increase their accuracy. (Artillery and air can deliver ordinance with an accuracy of centimeters, if they know precisely where to aim.) Defense Secretary Mattis is apparently in Baghdad and he says that Americans are "very close" to the fighting if not actually in it.

    It's unclear how many fighters ISIS has left in West Mosul. Did they commit most of their men to trying unsuccessfully to hold East Mosul, or did they conserve most of their forces? The expectation is that they will put up most of their resistance in the older parts of the city closer to the center, where streets are narrow and it's difficult to move vehicles, especially large armored vehicles. That suggests lots of infantry street-fighting in narrow alleys, something the Iraqis might not be very good at.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Reports that Abu Saif and the strategic hill immediately to its west have been taken. (There is still the sound of gunfire coming from the town.)

    The Iraqis are reportedly assaulting the Ghazlani military base north of the hill and immediately west of the airport. Taking the base would leave the airport surrounded on two sides (south and west) with the Tigris river the third side (east). Apparently the Iraqi and their 'coalition' allies hope to use the airport as a staging area in the future for the coming battle of West Mosul.

    https://southfront.org/iraqi-forces-storming-al-ghazlani-military-base-south-of-mosul/

    Here's more on the changing role of US troops in the Mosul fight.

    http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-mattis-iraq-20170220-story.html
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Iraqis appear to be consolidating the roughly 30 sq. miles they've already retaken on Mosul's southern outskirts and are moving up forces to attack the airport (perhaps in the next few days). They haven't taken the Ghazlani military base yet. (The base is a huge complex of barracks and training areas, but is largely deserted now because it's been the target of countless 'coalition' airstrikes. Basing ISIS fighters there would just expose them to air attack.)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-mosul-idUSKBN1601VT
     
  14. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The Syrian army continues its progress against Daesh in East of Aleppo. During the last three days they have liberated three villages in the region North of Deir Hafr:

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    Rasm Haml Iman,Ma'azah and Maborah. This opens another direction of a possible attack against Deir Hafr, from the North. But, again, it may be directed toward the East, to reach the Euphrat or the Kurds in the East.

    A new development is that the Syrian army has liberated a Western suburb of Aleppo:

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    This suburb Aqrah was controlled by Al Qaida. It seems, the Syrian army has not done much during the last time to allow the terrorists to kill each other in their infights. But this cannot last for a very long time, and the suburbs of Aleppo have to be liberated to secure Aleppo itself.
     
  15. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The Iraqis have entered the Mosul airport's sprawling grounds and have retaken the runways, though fighting still seems to be taking place around the airport buildings. Some news media are reporting that the Iraqis have taken the airport in its entirety, but that may be premature.

    The Iraqis have also entered the Ghazlani military base and reportedly hope to have it under control in hours.

    Thirdly, Mosul's main electric power plant is under attack and the Iraqis hope to have it under control soon.

    Reports say that US special forces advisers in armored vehicles are present with the Iraqis at the airport, within clear sight of the battle and attack helicopters strafing ISIS positions. (Are the helicopters US or Iraqi? The photos I've seen show Mi-24 Hinds, which suggests they are probably the Iraqi air force though the US special forces have been known to use these large and capable Russian attack helicopters themselves in places like Afghanistan where they are available.)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-mosul-idUSKBN1620HI

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/0...ke-runway-at-mosul-international-airport.html
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Reports that the Turks and their "FSA" allies have taken Al Bab, Bizaa and Qabasin. Some reports say that there's still fighting in these towns and they haven't been completely taken, but something big seems to be happening there.

    http://www.edmaps.com/html/al-bab_february_23_2017.html

    In Mosul news, the Iraqis seem to have consolidated their hold on the Mosul international airport, after optimistically announcing its seizure yesterday. Lingering ISIS holdouts are being rooted out after most the airport's ISIS defenders pulled back into west Mosul.

    http://www.voanews.com/a/iraqi-forc...-controlled-strongholds-in-mosul/3736556.html

    Perhaps knowing that the Iraqis hope to use the airport for supply flights and to operate helicopters, ISIS seems to have pretty much trashed the place before they left, blowing up buildings and runways.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
  18. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Today the advances of the Syrian army in East Aleppo have been, in comparison with the one or two villages per day during the last week, very large, and on a quite large front, from Al Bab (where they are yet in the process of taking Tadef) toward the place of the advance toward the East yesterday:

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    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/busy-day-in-east-aleppo-as-syrian-army-obliterates-isis/ mentions ten villages. This was not completely without fighting, the article claims 30 dead fighters, mostly foreigners, and "over 8 car bombs today alone, in which all were neutralized". Nonetheless, it seems that the main Daesh forces have left the region in the North.
     
  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Here's another map showing the same thing. (I wonder if the SAA's next objective is Dayr Hafir. But most of their offensive is north of there, so maybe not.)

    http://www.edmaps.com/Syria_Battle_for_AlBab_February_25_2017.png

    Yes, it looks like the sudden Turkish advance into al Bab, Biza' ah and Qabasin, along with the Syrian advance north and east along both sides of the Aleppo water canal, might both be the result of ISIS withdrawing many of its fighters from this increasingly exposed area. The Kurds have been moving up towards the outskirts of Raqqah (perhaps at the urging of the United States) and ISIS might be concerned about reinforcing its capital.

    Things seem to be starting to fall apart all over the map for ISIS (which seemed almost invincible in 2014) and it's starting to put out a Germany in 1945 odor. Their big mistake was getting into wars with all of their neighbors on all sides at once, in confidence that God was on their side.

    Here's a larger scale map of the NW Islamic State region in Syria.

    http://www.edmaps.com/Battle_for_Northern_Syria_February_25_2017.png

    In Mosul, the airport and the Ghazlani military base have been taken and the Iraqis have crossed the Mosul city limits into its outer residential neighborhoods. Resistance seems to be relatively light so far, but word is that ISIS is preparing its defense closer to the center where streets are narrow and armored vehicles can't fit.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Sunday Feb 26, fighting continues in SW Mosul. The Iraqis are reportedly pushing towards the southernmost of the five Tigris river bridges linking W and E Mosul. All five bridges have been blown up by 'coalition' airstrikes, but army engineers should be able to construct a temporary bridge that will allow the Iraqis to move in reinforcements from east Mosul. (The area of the push is called 'Jawasaq' in this map.) That would put the Iraqi army and special police not very far south of the Mosul old city (and the grand mosque where al Baghdadi announced his 'caliphate').

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Battle_of_Mosul_(2016–2017).svg

    The Iraqis were boasting of having taken the al Mammoun neighborhood in far SW Mosul as well, but there seems to be an ISIS counterattack underway there, so it isn't clear. (The area called al Ramman on the map.)

    Reportedly many of the ISIS defenders in Mosul are young foreigners who were attracted to fight with ISIS in its glory period of 2014 and 2015. An unknown number are from Europe. Now they are surrounded and under fire, and I bet that it doesn't seem so romantic and rebellious any longer.

    And reportedly, it isn't just US troops who have recently been embedded with front-line Iraqi units, advising them and calling in airstrikes and artillery. There are reportedly Europeans enjoying the new looser rules of engagement too. No word on which countries, but I'd guess the British army is part of it. Maybe French special forces too. There's also talk of Canadians up front with the Iraqi Kurds west of Mosul, towards the Syrian border.

    This whole attack appears to be progressing much more rapidly than the attack on east Mosul. I'd guess that it's the 'coalition' advisors trying to preserve the momentum of the attack.

    There was some kind of engagement to the west near the outlying town of Badush, suggesting the Iraqis are trying to encircle Mosul and cut highway 1 connecting Mosul and ISIS' other bastion of Tel Afar. The highway is already cut (by Iranian trained and equipped Shi'ite paramilitaries) west of Tel Afar, cutting ISIS in northern Iraq off from their compatriots in Syria.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Reports are that the counterattack has been defeated. About 100 ISIS fighters were killed and 75 captured. And interestingly, many of them were carrying Russian identity papers. (Chechens? Dagestanis?)
     
  22. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The Syrian army has established a connection with the Eastern Kurds around Manbidsh:

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    The encircled area is probably empty of reasonable forces, there will be a lot of traps and some suicide fighters inside, but nothing else. Who will take this area already does not matter very much. There seems to be a line of agreement between Turkey and Russia. If the forces on the ground - the Syrian army as well as the pro-Turkish rebels - exactly follow this line does not matter much. The Turks have no interest in a conflict with Russia now, if some of the pro-Turkish rebels start fighting they will not care.

    This cut is a quite important point, I think. First of all, it cuts any connection between Turkey and Daesh. Of course, Erdogan no longer supports Daesh, but it is not at all certain that all the Turkish secret service and deep state follow this. So, possible secret connections between Turkey and Daesh are cut. Now, the interesting question is what Turkey will do. They may start to fight the Kurds, to take Manbidsh. I would guess that there will be some American pressure on Erdogan, maybe even Russian, not to do this, simply because the Kurds have already explained that in case of such an attack they will stop to fight Daesh and defend Manbidsh. Without the Kurds, the US has nobody to fight Daesh, which is declared to be high priority by Trump. For the Russians, fighting Daesh is also high priority, even if some of the Daesh territory goes, for some time, to the pro-American Kurds, they are clearly less evil for Russia.

    So, if the Turks accept this, they are, at least for some time until Daesh is finished, out of the game. But Erdogan is quite unpredictable, and may as well ignore this and attack Manbidsh. We will see.

    For the Syrian army it makes sense to move toward the Euphrat, to have a large flank with the Kurds is not a problem for them. The Kurds will be happy once they have no longer to defend this flank against Daesh and not have much forces there:

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    Daesh will hardly spend much power on defending these places. The next more interesting target after the Euphrat is an airbase at 2. If taken, this would allow to encircle Deir Hafer, so that it may be even given up by Daesh.
     
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Here's another map showing the same thing:

    http://www.edmaps.com/Syria_Battle_for_AlBab_February_27_2017.png

    It looks like the Syrians (and their Iranian and Hezbollah allies) are playing spoiler in north Syria. First they halted the SDF's expansion east from their Afrin enclave (as the Turks were halting their westward expansion from Manbij). That made it look to me like Syria had suddenly allied with the Turks. But now they have blocked the Turks from advancing towards Raqqah and potentially installing a client-state along the Euphrates in eastern Syria. (The so-called "safe-zone" where Assad's opponents could enjoy Turkish protection.)

    (The collapse of the "Islamic state" seems to be assumed by everyone and the various players are maneuvering for what comes after and fills the void.)

    It will be interesting to see if the Turks try to go through the Syrians and if the Syrians fight them. (The Turkish military could certainly defeat the Syrian military (what's left of it), but not using their "FSA" proxies. They would have to commit regular Turkish forces and take perhaps more casulties than would be politically palatable for Erdogan.)

    Syria is putting Russia in an uncomfortable spot. Russia's longtime ally in the region has been Assad. But recently Moscow has been trying to improve relations with Turkey as well. Syria cooperating with Turkey is in the Russian interest. Syria and Turkey confronting each other isn't.

    Russia might have to choose a side. Turkey is much more important to Russia's longterm interests. So Syria might become expendable. In that case, Assad may become an Iranian client (to the extent that he isn't already).
     

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