Sunday, April 2, 2017


(ISW) The nice people at the Institute for the Study of War have brought out a map which shows the situation inside Syria as of Thursday the 30th, March 2017:

Al-Qaeda resumed large-scale offensive operations against the regime following a consolidation phase in Northern Syria. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - and Ahrar al-Sham launched a major operation against pro-regime forces in Northern Hama Province on March 21. ISW has previously assessed that Al-Qaeda would launch operations against Hama City in order to destabilize the regime and achieve symbolic resonance among Salafi-Jihadists due to the 1982 Hama Massacre. Current conditions remain unpromising for the Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War that resumed on March 23. The likely failure of these negotiations will provide additional impetus to Al-Qaeda’s narrative that opposition groups should abandon the negotiating table.

Turkey is posturing to gain American support to consolidate its safe zone in northern Syria. Turkey announced the "successful" end of Operations Euphrates Shield in northern Aleppo Province. The announcement comes ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who emphasized the need for the U.S. and its allies to form "interim zones of stability" in Syria during the Anti-ISIS Summit on 22 - 23 MAR. The consolidation of the Turkish safe zone in northern Aleppo risks further empowering Salafi Jihadi groups such as Ahrar al Sham in northern Syria.

The U.S. accelerated its campaign to isolate and seize Ar-Raqqa City alongside the Syrian Kurdish YPG. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation to seize the Tabqa Dam west of Ar-Raqqa City on March 22 with extensive support from the U.S. including airstrikes, artillery fire, attack helicopters, and embedded advisors. The U.S. also transferred at least 500 SDF fighters to the southern bank of the Euphrates River via helicopter to cut the Aleppo - Ar-Raqqa Highway. The operation - which will likely provoke a negative response from Turkey - began on the same day as a two-day ministerial conference of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Washington D.C.

ISIS lost Deir Hafr, Syria to pro-regime forces, bringing the regime closer to ISIS-held Raqqa and U.S. forces attempting to isolate the city. Deir Hafr previously functioned as an ISIS headquarters and command and control center, although ISIS likely relocated these capabilities prior to the regime advance. Separately, ISIS attacked a checkpoint in southern Baghdad using a tanker SVBIED, inflicting heavy casualties and demonstrating its resilient attack capabilities.