« Minuit, Chretiens - Jackie Evancho | Main | Christmas in Damascus this year. »

26 December 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Curious as to the eventual disposition of the Egyptians. Will they be Occupation/Rebuilding troops to free up more experienced combat troops? Will they arrive in time to be of any help?
How far South towards Taftnaz would the Kurds around Afrin feel comfortable going? Are the Kurds strong enough to interdict the jihadis movements towards the Turkish border? On the map, the gap between the Kurds and Aleppo doesn't look too far. On the ground though... Trapping the jihadis in northern Hattay in a real kessel, and unleashing the SAA and Russian air forces on them prior to a ground move could produce much.


The jihadi forces have no viable answer to an attack with this strength and determination. The foreign mercenaries cannot surrender to Assad, but they know they cannot win either. You can pay a man enough to kill for you, but you cannot pay him enough to die for you.

Attacks against government forces take the form of booby traps, roadside bombs, the occasional rooftop sniper. These things chip away at the government forces, but only serve to increase their resolve to get this thing finished. Russians seem less concerned with civilian casualties and destruction of property, many buildings are reduced to rubble on the way through. A stream of refugees (mostly Sunni civilian and escaping foreign fighters) flows into Turkey and also into the Turkish-held region near Azaz.

The Turks start building forces along the border, and along the area of Northern Syria that is nominally FSA but actually Turkish occupied. Since this is rapidly turning into a land grab, the Turks don't want to miss out on keeping the strategically sensitive city of Azaz for themselves. At this stage, the Syrian government forces are in no position to contest them anywhere North of Aleppo and the Russians don't want direct confrontation with Turkish forces. R+6 continues to press West from Idlib City, but they don't make it to the Turkish border in one week.

Politically there's a fresh cycle of "Fake News" especially regarding the refugees and emphasizing the brutality of the Russian demolition of rebel held cities. Samantha Powers gives yet another speech demanding intervention. A massive media campaign puts pressure on Trump to renounce any cooperation with R+6 while at the same time calling Trump a "poodle" of Putin.

Somehow the media finds an old "open mic" video of Trump talking privately about how useless Turkey is as a NATO ally and "Why don't we just kick em out?" The Trump video is released and goes viral, it becomes a major distraction for Trump's transition efforts.


Turkish Front: Turkish responses in support of jihadist forces completely disjointed due to blow-back from the assassination of Ambassador Karlov. Border crossings increasingly difficult for large groups of jihadists.
R+6: Increased deployment of Russian combat forces add mass to clear the majority of Idlib area as more rebels accept government offers of amnesty. Retaliatory actions by hard core jihadis add to the shoring of the unicorns.
Israel: Desperation by the Netanyahu government over sense of betrayal by Obama administration in its failure to destroy the Syrian government and Israel's loss of influence in the new administration.
Iraq: Still bogged down. US air elements attack targets of opportunity in and around Raqqa.
Terror front: Terror attacks attempted in Minneapolis on MLK's birthday.
US: Pending inauguration of President Trump and subsequent loss of influence by the Borg shown in ineffectual public pronouncements by the usual suspects of America's neocon establishment.


France, Britain, Germany and the United States table a resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Russia's intervention as "international aggression" taking place under the color of an invitation by the illegitimate Assad regime. The resolution calls for immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and fails 12-1 due to Russia's veto, with China and another country abstaining. Dangerous and uninformed talk arises as to initiatives to kinetically oppose Russia, but events on the ground outstrip any such fantasies. Serious public discussion in Western capitals develops around the idea of removing Russia from permanent membership on the Security Council, limiting Russia's veto power or more generally reforming the SC veto mechanism.


"Borders of Hatay" Turn 3: Jan 2 through 12 Jan

[Comment: I believe that the base scenario is running “too hot”. Units often take much longer than expected to complete necessary preparations.]

SAA – Units that took part in Aleppo continue to rest, resupply and reconstitute. Towards the end of this period most SAA units redeploy from individual unit assembly area to a single major assemble area on the north west side of Aleppo. They conduct company and battalion level training The remaining SAA force starts preparing a defense in depth along the routes from al-Bab to Aleppo. Militia form the main defensive ring around Aleppo. Police now handle the security inside Aleppo.

SAA units in Idib increase artillery and air strikes against towns and cities (especially at night). SAA ground units in Idib increase raids and recon patrols along the FEBA. Both are intended to force the rebels out of shelter to make them fight in the winter weather and wear them down.

SAA forces and militia around Damascus start offensive actions to eliminate the remaining Rebel pockets. Artillery and air strikes are intensive to keep ground forces losses down.

Rebels – Inter-factional fighting continues. Rebels from around Damascus increasingly redeploy to Idib.

The West – Grid lock with the change of administrations. Unable to respond to new Turkish and Russian actions. Diplomatic posturing by America has no material change on the situation in Syria.

Russia – Russia's failure to turn military success in Syria into political advantage has failed. They double down, and deploy some Russian ground forces into Syria. SOF, engineers, artillery, navel infantry, more air defense etc. These units start building base camps. Russian aircraft continue to strike Idib ans also provide fires against Rebel pockets around Damascus.

Iran – Continues to mobilizes more Iraqi Shiite militia units as US led operations in Iraq stagnate into a yard by yard blood bath.

Kurds – After Turkey attacks YPD units, they overtly reach out for Syrian/Russian support after the US does not respond to their calls for help.

Turkey – Turkey doubles down again. They reinforce the al-Bab attack with regular Turkish ground forces (Bde +). Their combat losses increase. Looking for a quick victory to shore up military support, they also attack the PYD (unsuccessfully) and moving an Armored Division towards Raqqa and the Kurds.




Were there world and time enough we could run this game another time using the much more cautious approach that you seem to favor. we will discuss this in the "hotwash" at the end. pl

mike allen

Color me cautious also. Rest and resupply are critical especially at this time of year. It will soon be freezing in much of northern Syria, if not already.

Syrian/Russian Air ops continue though against rebels in Idlib. The two Shia villages in Idlib province are reinforced and resupplied.

Turkish special forces finally make incursions into al-Bab, face fierce counterattacks by Daesh VBIEDs.

Raqqa is now isolated north of the Euphrates, surrounded on the east, north and west by the SDF.

In the south, Douma neighborhood of Damascus is completely under regime control. Daesh attacks on T4 Airbase and surrounding areas have stooped. Syrian Army efforts there are now focused on retaking Palmyra.


mike allen and Vic

"Do not take counsel of your fears." Bad weather? Good! Good! Have you never operated in snow and freezing rain? "L'audace! L'audace! Toujours l'audace!" pl

David Habakkuk


In looking at what the R + 6 will do, it may be worth at least taking note of old arguments among Russian strategists. In the ‘Twenties, the former Tsarist ‘genshtabist’ Aleksandr Svechin tried to explain to his new revolutionary colleagues that Clausewitz is two-sided: that the emphasis on the importance of the offense coexists with that on the advantages of the defence.

However, as a 2012 article by David R. Stone, a professor of military history at Kansas State University, emphasised, this did not mean that Svechin in some sense preferred the defence. The point was to be able to judge what was appropriate in a given situation – and, critically, when to shift from one to the other.

So Stone discusses a fascinating ‘post-mortem’ held in 1920, on the Brusilov offensive of 1916. The whole point of Svechin’s critique of Brusilov was that he had failed to move from ‘attrition’ to ‘destruction’, at a moment when doing so might have collapsed the enemy’s position.

Given that the revival of interest in Svechin’s ideas in Russia from the late Soviet period on, it is just possible that these arguments may be in the minds of contemporary Russian military men. And given that he is a thinker often misunderstood, it seems worth quoting Stone’s conclusion:

‘The point here is not the justice of Svechin’s criticism of Brusilov, but its nature. Brusilov had managed precisely the sort of attritional success typically and incorrectly regarded as what Svechin aimed for – limited and local victories which would, with time and effort, wear down and defeat an enemy. What Svechin in fact saw in 1916 was the fateful failure to seize an opportunity for strategic success by a bold stroke aimed at operational or even strategic annihilation: bold exploitation of the breakthrough at Lutsk to push further, to Kovel or L’viv, cutting off retreating Austrian forces and perhaps driving Austria from the war altogether. Svechin said “the offensive was stopped not by the enemy, but . . . by the orders of the Commander of the South-Western Front.” This was going too far, since there was blame to be shared by Stavka and by Kaledin, not just Brusilov. But Svechin’s assessment of what had been lost still stands, and it was precisely the chance for annihilation of the enemy: “Before us we had space to maneuver, and instead we looked for defense and sought a quick return to positional warfare.” Svechin’s insistence on the power of circumstance – that no approach to warfare could be endorsed without clear understanding of the particular time and place that made it appropriate, was eminently clear in 1920. Brusilov’s failure, in Svechin’s mind, was exactly what Svechin has too often been dismissed as doing: settling for attrition and rejecting destruction.

(See http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/14980/Misreading%20Svechin%20-%20publisher%27s%20PDF.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y .)



Doesn't it rain and snow on the other guys too?



It generally does. pl

mike allen

Yes, and the other guys will be a lot less prepared for it.

mike allen

Colonel - "Have you never operated in snow and freezing rain?"

For myself, and I suspect for some others here, the answer is yes but only in training exercises.

For the Syrian Army? I do not have a clue. What is their history in cold weather ops? The Russians know it well of course. I do not think that either fears the weather. But my suspicion is that in the first few weeks of January they are savouring their victory in E. Aleppo, and waiting for a new administration in Washington.


mike allen

IMO to wait and see is suicidal for Syria. They will lose the initiative and would risk losing it all as the international political balance changes and the jihadis recover their morale and receive re-supply. IMO they should break the back of resistance in Idlib Province BEFORE Trump is inaugurated. If that happens he will IMO shrug in relief and turn to other business. Do you not know that a beaten enemy must be pursued until he is destroyed? pl

The Twisted Genius

mike allen,

Both Colonel Lang and David Habakkuk said it well. There is a time when you must stay on the offensive. Let me put it my way. When you burst into a cellar and kill/maim one or two of the enemy and the survivors retreat to another room, you don't give them time to collect their wits and devise a plan. You leap into that room right on their heels, screaming like a blood crazed demon, and finish the sons of bitches off. The principle is the same whether the battlefield is a dark cellar or an entire country.


mike allen

"Most decisive victories do not result from the initial action, but from quickly and aggressively exploiting the opportunities created by that action. We may find any number of ways to exploit tactical opportunity, but they all have the same object—to increase leverage until we have the final opportunity to decide the issue once and for all in our favor. A goal in Marine Corps tactics is not merely to gain advantage but to boldly and ruthlessly exploit that advantage to achieve final victory." MCDP 1-3 pl


Assad begins plan to establish a semi-autonomous Kurdish region predicated upon Kurdish aid in closing the Turkish border from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Part and parcel of this plan will be the establishment of the Kurds as de facto junkyard dogs on the Turkish border. (Assad reads SST.)

Russia will use the carrot of economic perks such as pipeline deals, economic help from the BRICS, and full SCO membership to try and convince Turkey to cooperate with containment of Jihadis.

For symbolic reasons, Raqqa is chosen as the next target.

Israel goes to bed with a migraine.

mike allen

Colonel & TTG -

I never claimed to be a strategist. I agree with your points. But I am not advocating for a defensive posture. R+6 should remain on the offensive.

As far as Idlib goes, I am only trying to put myself in Assad's shoes and those of his allies and advisors. Besides the weather and waiting for Trump, there are additional reasons why Assad may decide to continue offensive ops elsewhere and hold off in Idlib until later:

#a] There are several other resistance pockets in the provinces of Hama, Homs, Rif Dimashq, Daraa, and Deir ez-Zor that need to be destroyed. Why wait on those? They are smaller pockets and can be rolled back quickly. Theoretically anyway.

#b] The international propaganda value of retaking Palmyra from Daesh is by itself worth much more to Assad than retaking the entire province of Idlib.

#c] There are additional Iraqi Shia militias on the border awaiting mission orders and entry into Syria. They are a long way from Idlib. A better use for them would be to fight against Daesh in the east along with regime forces. Hmmm, Deir ez-Zor maybe? It has twice as much population as Idlib, lots of oil in the surrounding countryside, and thousands of fertile farms along the Euphrates valley.

#d] In Idlib province, there are many reports of dissension and infighting among the many different jihadi groups. So why not let them kill themselves before going in to destroy the winners?

#e] Russian/Turkish/Iranian conference in Moscow seems to have chastened Turkish ambitions in Syria. FM Lavrov and his Iranian & Turkish counterparts Zarif and Cavosoglu were as chummy as the three musketeers. Did Putin make an offer that Erdogan couldn't refuse and therefore he (Erdo) had to close down the Hatay border with Idlib and stop supplying arms there, or at least make a pretense? Admittedly this last one is speculation. It needs careful observation for a doublecross.


mike allen

Strategy? OK. 1. First you destroy the enemy's forces and subdue the "territoire," and then you can collect the loot, in this case, the oil and gas deposits in the east of Syria. they aren't going anywhere and will be there waiting for you when you get around to that. 2. If a jihadi/rebel redoubt is allowed to continue to exist in Idlib Province it will grow stronger and stronger under foreign sponsorship until it eats you alive. 3. the US led coalition will help you with IS if it is presented with a fait accompli in the pacification of western Syria. BTW, the campaign in Idlib Province described in the game is a matter of Grand Tactics, not Strategy. pl

Babak Makkinejad

A Truce will be declared acorss all of Syria by Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey - excluding Al Nusra and ISIS.

As a consequence, moderate rebels start negotiation with SAR for demobilization.

War in Idlib continues; R+6 continue creating corridors with the aim to eventually separate enemy fighters into disjointed enclaves.

US and EU will continue propaganda war against R+6.

Gulfies are hysterical.

mike allen

Colonel -

I am neither a tactician nor a strategist. I am only calling this as I see it. If the intent of the exercise is to only focus on Idlib province then I must withdraw.

Idlib IMHO is not the critical point. What foreign sponsorship can support the jihadis in Idlib besides Turkey? And Putin now has Erdogan on a leash. If Erdogan tries to cheat it will be obvious. The foreign support will come perhaps thru Israel or Jordan. Some claim that so-called secular or moderate resistance groups are in the Southern Front, but they have or will be soon taken over by Salafis. There in the south is the danger point, which Assad must not allow to continue to exist lest it festers and expands. The only other place from which foreign support can now enter is al-Anbar and Nineveh. Those will soon be closed by the Hashd al-Shaabi.

Peter Reichard

R+6 actions 12-18 January: SAA clears M-5 highway south from Aleppo, relieves Taftanaz airhead, drives west and breaks siege of Al-Fu'a. Rebel stay behind force in Idlib city delays 5 corps march northward. SAA enters Jisr Al-Shugar then moves rapidly north encountering light resistance until ambushed just south of Salqin. Rebel desertions increase, some surrender to government forces, some executed, many more flee to Turkey. Major clashes break out among rebel groups over tactics and unity of command.
Political situation: US sidelined due to transition of power. Trump such an unknown everyone takes a wait and see attitude except Iran which fears him mightily. Russia, Turkey and Iran move closer. Russia offers Turkey a grand bargain; accept Assad, cut off aid and border to rebels and in return you have free rein to deal with the Kurds as you see fit.


Has Erdogan switched sides. Earlier he was providing a transit for and trading ISIS oil. WE have not heard of tankers lately, and with this effort by Turkish troops to seal the border, a change has occurred. Also allowing YPG forces to secure the hydo damn at Tabaqah and coordinate with U.S. forces air power (Pentagon?) in a move toward Ar Raqqah. (reported on SF) Kurds deep in Syria, and the border sealed, is Erdogan still in control of the Turkish army?

Pray the crash of the Russian plane carrying a "Christmas" celebration is an accident and not an attempt to start WWIII before Trump's inauguration.

Not 100 years since Western Powers sat in a hall of mirrors and drew lines on maps of the middle east. Some for the Turks and some for the Arabs and a bit for the Hashemites. The West has been drawing lines on maps of Asia and leaving Brigades slaughtered for centuries. Asia is not impressed by Western planning.

As for Trump, his tweets have devalued Boeing and Lockheed Martin in an instant. One of his staff should duct tape his fingers together so he won't tweet the demise of his own administration

mike allen


Agreed. Your analogy is apt. There are many rooms in that cellar though. All must be cleared.


mike allen

All the rooms do not need to be cleared at the same time. The Damascus area and south to the border is quite stable and the area of rebel control is shrinking steadily even though engaged with economy of force troops. a major move by the government towards the Golan Heights risks direct Israeli intervention on behalf of the jihadis whom they support. IMO this "room" can wait for more propitious time after the back of the insurgents is broken in Idlib Province. I think you know a lot. I just happen to not agree with a lot of your conclusions. I suppose you have read your way through The Commandant's Reading List? pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad