It’s not just the US, British, French and Manbij Military Council squaring off against the FSA and Turkish Army around Manbij. While the French contingent consists of fifty or so Colonial Marines, the US force consists of 300 troops (SF and Rangers?) along with several armored vehicles and engineering vehicles. They are constructing fortifications. Once Pompeo is installed as SecState, formal negotiations are supposed to commence as to what will happen around Manbij.
The Russians and the SAA are just to the west of Manbij and northeast of Al Bab. Further to the west, at Tal Riffat and the Menagh airbase, southeast of the Turkish-occupied area of Afrin, the SAA and Russian military police have taken over defensive positions. The Syrian flag is flying over the center of Tal Riffat. The Turks are still making noises about attacking this area, but the Russians have told Ankara that the YPG has moved on. This all reminds me of that final cemetery scene in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."
But there’s more. For the last several days, the Russian Aerospace Forces have been pounding the hell out of jihadist targets in Idlib governorate near the Turkish border.
According to a military source in Damascus, the Russian Aerospace Forces specifically targeted the border-towns of Al-Ghassaniyah, Al-Aliyah, Al-Duribat, and Jisr Al-Shughour. These four towns in western Idlib currently have a large presence of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) fighters, making them a top priority for the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Recently, the Russian Aerospace Forces have turned their attention to Jisr Al-Shughour, following failed talks with the Turkish military regarding the transfer of the town to the Syrian government. Due to Jisr Al-Shughour’s proximity to Latakia and the Hmaymim Airbase, the Russian Aerospace Forces have begun pressuring Turkey to expel the jihadists in the area. (AMN)
My guess is that there will be an SAA offensive to retake Jisr Al-Shughour and the nearby Al-Ghaab Plain once the jihadis south of Damascus and are defeated.
Seems that there is trouble brewing in the Al-Raqqa Governorate for the US and its allies. Several shadowy groups have emerged to attack the US and YPG/SDF forces in that governorate. One of these groups, calling itself the Popular Forces of East Syria, attacked a US base with surface to surface missiles. What interested me most was a photo of two jolly fighters, one armed with an AK, the other armed with a Mosin Nagant rifle. The iron sight seems to be set at a thousand yards or so. Those Mosin Nagants are certainly capable of slinging its 7.62X54 rimmed bullets out to a thousand yards with a reasonable degree of accuracy. I love those rifles. No black plastic or Picatinny rails. No batteries for new-fangled geegaws. Just good Russian steel and wooden stocks, usually birch. It's also nice to see the Popular Forces of East Syria uses an old school scoped rifle, although not a Mosin Nagant, in its insignia rather than the tediously overused AK. I don’t know if those two jolly souls are part of the Popular Forces of East Syria or another pro-Syrian resistance group in the area, the Hasakah Popular Resistance Movement. The hat one is wearing seems to have a pro-Damascus design, but they’re giving the one fingered salute usually associated with jihadis. Perhaps it is just an Islamic expression rather than strictly a jihadi one. Either way, I just like seeing a real rifle in use.