from Rogue Money:
Two major developments have occurred in the Syrian war since the Israeli air strikes of mid-March too close to the T4 airbase northeast of Palmyra, where Russian personnel have been active for Moscow to tolerate.
U.S./SDF Forces Continue to Advance Up the Euphrates Valley Closer to Raqqa
One, combined U.S. Special Forces/SDF units have crossed the Euphrates in a surprise attack relying on American helicopters and boats to ferry Kurdish fighters across the river into Daesh territory. The Taqba dam on the Euphrates is now fully secured and the success of the SDF/JSOC offensive has aided the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) further west in securing the town of Daer Hafer, after driving the Daesh terrorists away from a key water supply point on the Euphrates for Aleppo. The Taqba Air Base which fell into ISIS hands back in 2013 when the Islamic State was fighting alongside so called moderate Free Syrian Army rebels, is now in the hands of Kurdish units. This could give American Apache gunships and Blackhawk transport helicopters another field from which to operate in the Raqqa offensive. After heavy losses and defeats over the last several weeks at Palmyra and Mosul, Daesh appears to be in disarray and retreat on all fronts. Compounding the Daeshbags’ problems, they are now faced on the Raqqa front with heavy U.S. firepower from long range howitzers and HIMARS systems deployed by the U.S. Marines to strike mobile targets such as Toyota technical, VBIEDs or infantry concentrations.
Turkey, Unhappy with the Limits Imposed by the Tacit U.S.-Russia Alliance Against Daesh, is Supporting a New Jihadi Offensive
Two, as it is now clear that Turkish forces will not be permitted by either the U.S. or Russia to participate in the assault on the capitol of the Islamic State Caliphate, Turkey has thrown its support behind a counteroffensive by Al-Qaeda and non-ISIS jihadist groups in northern Hama province, threatening to cut the highway to the SAA held city. For the first time not only Soviet model ex-Eastern Bloc armored vehicles have appeared in the jihadis order of battle, but also Turkish-made armored cars. Russian Aerospace forces in Syria have responded by dispatching SU30 and 35 air superiority fighters to attack the jihadi convoys with anti-personnel rockets. Suspected Al-CIA-eda propagandist from New York State Bilal Abdel Kareem and the OGN Twitter feed are providing lavish coverage of the jihadists’ advances. However, the extensive interviews with Russian-speaking jihadists by Mr. Kareem has made the subjects he intends to glorify higher priority targets for Russian spetsnaz forces to eliminate. The ample video footage of the jihadis Toyota technical and armored car columns is also likely providing Russian military intelligence the GRU with geolocation data useful in plotting air strikes.
— Bilal Abdul Kareem (@BilalKareem) March 22, 2017
While the jihadi offensive is likely to run out of gas due to the superior firepower of the SAA, the attack does show the jihadist enclave in Idlib province bordering Turkey remains a serious threat to pro-government forces, and the SAA currently lacks the manpower to clean it out and sustain the advance against Daesh in the east. The jihadi offensive also shows that questions of where OGN’s takfiri propaganda is receiving funding and whether it is tied into the public relations groups funded by MI6 in London that promoted the anti-Assad jihad for the British government is not going away.
As longtime Mideast correspondent Elijah J. Magnier wrote this past week, even after Daesh is crushed Al-Qaeda will remain a dangerous adversary for the Syrian government, Russia and Iran in the Levant. For now EJM reports the U.S. prioritization of taking Raqqa and fresh supplies from Turkey have allowed Al-Qaeda and its allies to regroup, particularly using manpower that was expelled by the SAA from other parts of the country to form new assault squads. In the medium term as Magnier reports, the Russian military may have to get more involved on the ground than it is at present to root Al-Qaeda out of Idlib province. However the current Russian forces including private military contractors on the ground seem adequate along with the jets and choppers based in Syria to beat back the latest jihadist offensive.
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