This post mentions various factions involved in the Syrian civil war – if you want to have a refresher, here are some of the most important in this post:
Syrian Democratic Forces/SDF – Mainly Kurdish faction operating in Northern Syria, backed by the West, fighting against ISIL
SAA – Syrian Arab Army, the military force of the Assad government, fighting against ISIL and rebel rebel groups. Does not fight against SDF.
VBIED – Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device
This month brings developements all across Syria, from the western mountainous province of Latakia to Aleppo City to the siege of Manbij in the North.
Perhaps the most interesting change compared to this time last month is the failure of the SAA Raqqa offensive. The Government forces had made great progress towards the “capital” of the Islamic State, al-Raqqah, even breaching for the first time into Raqqa governorate. Unfortunately for them, ISIL forces under the command of Emir Ahmad Kafrouma of Tabqa airbase launched a series of counterattacks mostly involving suicide-VBIEDs to great effect, pushing the Syrian armed forces back and eventually forcing them to retreat. This marked a great failure for the SAA and undoubtedly serves to lower morale among the troops.
On the other hand the Assad government forces have made great gains in/around Aleppo City. It appears that during the last day or so the SAA has captured positions overlooking Castello Road, bringing them 300m from the road, which is the last major road connecting the rebel-held parts of the city to the outside world.
If the news is true that the Syrian army is indeed close to capturing and closing the road, this means that the Syrian rebels are completely encircled and surrounded – deprived of food, small-arms ammunition and artillery shells. In essence, if Aleppo City falls, the war will be almost certainly be over.
I believe that the loss of Aleppo would signify the beginning of the end of the war, as the rebels would lose all of their DIY military-industry, lose tens of thousands of men and completely demoralize the revolution. In addition, it would free up ~55,000-60,000 men of the SAA, Hezbollah, Iranian Guard Corps, etc who would then go on to squash the remaining rebel-held areas.
I do not believe that this would happen in a week, or even in a month, but if Aleppo falls, I reckon large-scale war will be over in a year.
It also appears that Kurdish forces for the single Kurd-held neighbourhood of Aleppo City, Sheikh Maqsood, have decided to co-operate with the regime, pushing towards Castello road from the opposite side as well. This could be revenge/payback for the fact that Rebel forces have shelled the Kurdish neighbourhood before.
On the Northern Syrian front the SDF has completely enveloped and has started sieging the city of Manbij. ISIL is not giving up easily, and is continuously launching counterattacks. These counterattacks are both in the form of conventional fighting and suicide car-bombs/SVBIEDs. However the SDF forces have the advantage of US airstrike behind them and therefore will probably defeat the remaining ISIL forces remaining in the city in due time.
Lastly, there has been some fighting in the western Latakia province, in which a coalition of rebel forces including the following:
Turkestan Islamic Party
First Coastal Division
attempted to take some territory from the Assad forces. It appears that the rebels did make some gains, even taking the city of Kinsabba (video is a tour of captured Kinsabba filmed by rebels), but the real situation is unclear.
From my sources it also appears that the SAA have launched a counteroffensive aptly named ‘Mountain Storm’ to retake the city.
This is all for now, if you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.