Despite administration denials, Russian ground attack is succeeding

aleppo attack

Last week forces allied with Syria strongman Bashar Assad kicked off their offensive with the aid of Russian air support. The administration was quick to proclaim this was going to be a quagmire for the Russians and result in ‘blowback.’ Right on schedule, left wing media began toeing the administration line:

Assad’s first big Russia-backed campaign is not going well
This, by the way, written by the guy who blamed the Israelis for restricting traffic on the bridge from Gaza to the West Bank. I am not making that up.

Putin’s War in Syria Not Going Well So Far
Naturally by Kevin “perpetually wrong but never in doubt” Drum who should be spending the remainder of his miserable piss-ant life in a Trappist monastery atoning for the way he publicly beclowned himself throughout the Iraq War.

Obama: Ground Offensive in Syria Will Not Work
Clownish, it goes without saying

But today we see in the Wall Street Journal that, contrary to these predictions, Assad’s forces and allies are making progress.

Syrian pro-regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes have expanded their ground offensive to the strategic city of Aleppo, one of the clearest signs yet of how Russia’s recent military intervention has emboldened President Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists.

In the bitterly fought multi-sided war, Aleppo is among the most coveted prizes. Losing partial control of the city, which was once Syria’s largest and its commercial capital, was an embarrassment to the regime. But with the backing of Russian warplanes, Iranian forces and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Mr. Assad’s forces could now be in position to regain large parts of the city and the surrounding countryside.

“I suspect Assad always wanted to take back Aleppo because it is such an important city and retaking it has such strategic and symbolic importance,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based military and security think tank. “And it would deny the rebels a foothold in any major city.”

The battle for Aleppo, launched on Friday, is an extension of two weeks of other ground offensives in the provinces of Hama, Latakia and Homs aided by Iranian forces and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. Mr. Assad is attempting to retake territory once considered out of his control, showing a new confidence with his growing international support.

How do we reconcile these accounts, other than relying on Occam’s Razor which, in this case, would be to discount the opinion of idiots? Let’s delve deeper into the WSJ article:

The regime’s ground offensives over the past two weeks have been led by fighters and military advisers from Iran and forces from Hezbollah, supplemented by Syrian security forces. While those offensives have resulted in a number of seized villages, they haven’t secured any big territorial gains for the regime.

The pattern of small-scale ground offensives since Russia began bombing targets in Syria on Sept. 30 is beyond the scope of normal operations for the Syrian army, but it appears to follow Soviet battlefield strategy of probing front-line weaknesses, according to Mr. Kozak.

If you take a trip back through history back to the days of the Soviet Union we find a ready explanation: Soviet offensive doctrine was built upon the idea of succeeding echelons of forces. The first echelon found gaps in the front line. The second echelon forces pushed through those gaps. Speed was everything because the Soviets wanted to prevent NATO from having time to decide whether to use battlefield nuclear weapons. Enemy strongpoints were bypassed and isolated. A schematic would look like this:

soviet attack


Here you see the first echelon freezing the enemy front line, preventing withdrawal and redeployment, while the second echelon is forced through the weak spots.

What the Russians are doing is launching an attack across a broad front. Many, if not most, of those attacks will be stopped. A few will be successful. The forces constituting a second echelon will be focused at those points where the most significant strategic gains can be made. In the current case, Assad and his backers are focusing on the frontage that includes city of Aleppo. Why?

Infighting has dogged Aleppo’s rebels—even more than opposition fighters elsewhere in Syria. Potential coalitions have crumbled over differing ideologies and command structures. Both Islamic State militants and the regime have now exploited that discord.

So far the battles in Aleppo are concentrated in the southern countryside on multiple fronts pushing toward the crucial highway that links the city with the coastal province of Latakia and the central provinces such as Hama, rebels said.

One of the goals of the offensive could be to prevent rebel reinforcements from Aleppo being sent to help fighters along other fronts. Rebels also report an amassing of pro-regime forces elsewhere in Aleppo province that could be aimed at cutting off the rebel supply route from Turkey.

Such moves could severely weaken the array of rebel forces in Aleppo, which include Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and al Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front as well as U.S.-backed rebels.

The area is in disarray. The defenders unlikely to cooperate with each other. Aleppo is critical to resupplying other rebel groups.

Look to this be repeated time and again. Unfortunately for the people we are allegedly supporting in Syria, the Russians have a plan beyond issuing press releases.