Aleppo: A Prelude to the Liberation Operation

24.10.2016

Revolutionary Guards Corps, but also Afghan Hazaras, Iraqi Shiites and Lebanese Hezbollah, are concentrated in Aleppo district for its liberation. In addition to the Russian Aerospace Forces, there are other units that help the Syrian army to attack. Therefore, all the forces are thrown at Aleppo, and if certain agreements are made with Turkey and considering the corridors, the liberation of Aleppo is possible, but it will take some time.

On the morning of October 20 in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the eastern part of which is occupied by anti-government militants, a humanitarian pause was announced. The Syrian government announced the withdrawal of troops from their positions in several areas of the city in order to allow the militants to leave the eastern districts of Aleppo through the designated humanitarian corridors. Before that, airstrikes from the Russian and Syrian air force were discontinued. Military expert Vladimir Yevseyev, Director of the SCO Public Policy Research Center told valdaiclub.com about the meaning of humanitarian pauses and possible further actions of the parties.

According to Yevseyev, the governments of Syria and Russia have taken this step because the situation in Aleppo has reached a turning point. It was decided to repeat the experience of the withdrawal of militants from the Eastern and Western Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, where militants withdrew to the Idlib province together with their families and weapons.

"To avoid civilian casualties, it was decided to make this corridor, given the experience in Ghouta,” said Yevseyev. “It is better to fight them either in the open field or in the territory where their families are, that is, in Idlib province. Right now, they hide behind civilians, whose life does not cost anything to them, while in Idlib they would be constrained."

In addition, Yevseyev noted that the continuation of the war in Aleppo would mean the further destruction of the city, so such a solution is appropriate. However, he noted that it would be wrong to interpret the humanitarian pause as a truce, as it is only a creation of temporary humanitarian corridors.

The humanitarian pause in Aleppo, which was originally announced from 08:00 to 19:00 on October 20, was extended by one day by order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and then further until October 24. As reported on Thursday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin said that "the continuation of this pause is possible and desirable, but not in the event that this pause will be used to re-arm or re-equip terrorists."

Before the civil war in Syria, the population of Aleppo was 2.5 million people, making it the largest city in the country. Currently, the population of the western part of the city controlled by the government forces is 1.5 million people, while in the opposition-controlled east, it is about 250 thousand. According to Yevseyev, up to several thousand fighters could still remain in the city.

"I think that there will be different points of view among the militants,” he said. “Some will try to remain, and a part will try to leave. The ratio of hard to understand, but I believe that up to 6,000 militants will remain in Aleppo, although this is a very rough estimate. Therefore, if they do not give the corridor, it is possible to fight for a long time, if they are prepared. Plus, they have a very layered defense, actively using underground tunnels and snipers. In such conditions, it is very difficult to liberate the urban environment. It is easier to give a corridor to exit, then facilitate the liberation."

Also helping the liberation of the city is the fact that some of the militants left Aleppo by agreement with Turkey and were sent to the al-Bab area, an important area for Syrian Kurds from the Afrin Canton to connect to the Kurds in northeastern Syria.

"The Turks are also moving there, you can expect a new battle for Al-Bab," Yevseyev said.

According to Yevseyev, some of Syria’s strongest forces will be used in the east Aleppo liberation operation.

"Right now, almost all of the resources that the Syrian army has, including its allies, not only of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, but also Afghan Hazaras, Iraqi Shiites and Lebanese Hezbollah, are concentrated in Aleppo district for its liberation. There is a significant presence of Russian troops. In addition to the Aerospace Forces, there are other units that help to attack the Syrian army. Therefore, all the forces are thrown at Aleppo, and if certain agreements are made with Turkey and considering the corridors, the liberation of Aleppo is possible, but it will take some time, because there is a certain portion of the militants that will remain. They will have to be killed on the spot because there is simply no other option."

According to Yevseyev, another reason why the decision was made on humanitarian pause is the beginning of the operation to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS.

"The situation here is like this: while the Russian aircraft in Syria is not working in the city of Aleppo, the Americans and their allies strike blows on Mosul, which is accompanied by a massive loss of civilian life. This will constrain Americans somewhat, and it will be our response to the information war that they waged in connection to the situation around Aleppo. Russia helps to resolve problems in Aleppo, at a time when the Americans are trying to enter Mosul in a very rough manner, which will be followed by the death of the civilian population,” said Yevseyev.

The large-scale offensive on Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, captured by ISIS in June 2014 was announced on Monday, October 17. The operation is carried out by the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish formation Peshmerga with air support from the Western coalition.

Vladimir Yevseyev is Director of the Public Policy Research Center.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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