"The attacks, less than a mile from the Turkish frontier, are in reaction to what is unfolding 30 miles to the north. Three forces which have been engaged in a bitter struggle against each other in Syria’s civil war are closing in on a city which is a strategic prize for an offensive on Raqqa.
Rebel Sunni Arab fighters of the FSA ( Free Syrian Army) with Turkish military backing; A Kudish led alliance with American advisors and air support and the regime’s army with Russian backing are closing in on al-Bab in Aleppo Province.
Al-Bab, or The Gate, is the last remaining significant stronghold left for Isis before Raqqa.
What happens in al-Bab will not only have a major bearing on the future of Raqqa, but also events in Aleppo and the aftermath of the operations there as the Assad regime carries out a push to take the rebel held east of the city"Or events in Aleppo will have an effect on al-Bab? As most of us know Aleppo for the most part has been taken back by SAA and allies.
|Syrian soldiers fly their flag near Sakhur district, which had been in rebel hands for four years (Reuters)|
Syrian forces storm southeast Aleppo as UN warns of rebel capitulation
UN envoy’s concern for terrorists is oh so touching
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said on Tuesday that he could not say how long the rebel resistance would last.
"Clearly, I cannot deny - this is a military acceleration and I can't tell you how long eastern Aleppo will last," he told the European Parliament. "There is a constant increase of movement on the military side."
Igor Konashenkov, a major general and spokesman for the Russian defence ministry, said on Monday: "During the last 24 hours, thanks to very well prepared and careful actions, Syrian soldiers were able to radically change the situation,"
"Practically half of the territory occupied by rebels in recent years in the eastern part of Aleppo has been completely liberated."
Back to the Independent:
-Al-Bab supplied the largest contingent of fighters during the battle for Aleppo in 2012
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly declared that he wants the rebels his government is supporting with a 10,000 strong Turkish force, “Operation Euphrates Shield”, to move to the city. Gaining possession would not only provide a natural defence point for the 5,000 square kilometre “security zone” Ankara wants to establish, but act as a check on expansion of regime forces if and when they take Aleppo.
“Opposition fighters supported by Turkish armour and warplanes captured the villages of Umm Shukyaf, Umm Adshah and Anifiyah at the weekend, while at the same time launching attacks against the American backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in nearby Sab Wiran and Sheikh Nassir.
The results of the attacks were inconclusive and the SDF, led supposedly, led DEFINITELY, by the Kurdish militia YPG with (little to no) Arab groups in the ranks, claimed to have destroyed a Turkish tank. Meanwhile the SDF YPG continued its offensive, backed by US air strikes, against Isis, capturing the villages of Tal al-Jijan and Tal Unayb, west of al-Bab after prolonged and intense clashes.”
Regime forces, while continuing its offensive to capture the eastern part of Aleppo from rebels, advanced towards al-Bab, taking the villages of Khirbat Duwayr, Amad Taltinah, Shaalah and Tal Al-Khashkhashat. Hizbullah and the pro-Damascus Kurdish group, Kafr as Saghir Martyrs, took part in the fighting.
Turkish backed rebels maintain that the SDF provided fire support for the regime forces – more evidence, they insisted, to back their charge of collusion between Bashar al-Assad and the Kurds.
Turkey’s rebels clarify this statement, I’ll highlight it.
The complex and violent tapestry on the ground holds the increasing risk of outside players being sucked further into the conflict. President Erdogan called Vladimir Putin at the weekend after air strikes by Assad regime warplanes, had killed four Turkish soldiers and injured nine others near al-Bab. The two leaders, say Turkish officials, are in regular contact with each other over Syria, a process started by the rapprochement which the confrontation following the shooting down of a Russian plane by the Turks last year.
I stand firm that it was US planes that struck the Turkish soldiers.
Russia denies targeting Turkish troops in Al-Bab, Syria
"Russia has confirmed directly, by Mr. [President Vladimir] Putin, that the jets which conducted that attack did not belong to them," Numan Kurtulmus said after a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.Here's the clarification of the above statement- highlighted
There seems little prospect, however, of the accusations and recriminations on the ground coming to an end. Motassim Khalid Abdullah, an officer with a Free Syrian Army (FSA) acting alongside Turkish troops in Syria spoke of his bitterness about the activities of the SDF. “They are Kurdish, YPG (a Kurdish militia) controlled. They say they are fighting Daesh (Isis) but they are also fighting us and it is for definite that they are helping Bashar when it suits them” he declared.
“We have proof that they were using their artillery when the regime advanced on al-Bab at Amad Taltinah and Shaalah. We are not saying they want Bashar to get al-Bab. They have already said they want al-Bab themselves. They want to create a Kurdistan out of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. The Turks know this and that is the reason they are in Syria. The Americans must also know this, but they keep on supporting the Kurds. It is some kind of a game the Americans are playing.”
US officials announced recently that the SDF would withdraw from Manbij, another town recently captured from Isis, leaving it to the FSA and Arab tribal militias. The Kurds, however, still maintain a presence there and have accelerated operations to gain territory nearby.Kurdish militias never left, I've already covered this: Here
"My understanding is they were departing and they were doing that today," Dorrian said after being pressed by Anadolu Agency to explain the apparent contradiction.American backed Kurdish militias not gone from Manbij!
"But as far as whether every single one of them is gone, I would be very uncomfortable saying every single one," he added”
This lays the ground for another scenario. The outside powers would lose interest – a very real possibility in the case of America under a Trump presidency – or rein back having reached their strategic objectives. The groups they had fed and watered will meanwhile carry on their vicious internecine strife, making the prospect of peace in Syria even more remote.
From Earlier Today: