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Khanaser-Aleppo Road And Syrian Army’s Strategy To Defend It From Terrorists

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On January 26, ISIS launched a large-scale attack on the government supply line to the city of Aleppo – the Khanaser-Aleppo highway, aiming to cut off supplies to the government-held city. The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF), backed up by Russian warplanes, repelled the attack, but the incident clearly showed that this vital supply line was still vulnerable for attacks from ISIS (from the  eastern direction) and the so-called “moderate opposition” (from the western direction).

There are few reasons why government forces are unable to prevent such attacks:

  • The Syrian army and its allies don’t have enough manpower to defend the whole road. They use check points to “keep it safe”. However, troops at these check points are not able to repel any significant advance from jihadists;
  • This means that militants are able to move forward until government forces send reinforcements to the area of attack;
  • This government strategy allows militants to maneuver, keeping a military pressure on government forces in various hot points along the road.

In this case, the only solution to secure the whole road is to move a frontline, expanding significantly a buffer zone along the road. This is hardly possible while the Syrian army is deeply involved in operations against ISIS near Palmyra and in Deir Ezzor.

However, the ongoing government operation south of al-Bab is likely a pretext to the widely expected effort to secure the Khanaser-Aleppo road.

Khanaser-Aleppo Road And Syrian Army's Strategy To Defend It From Terrorists

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There is no way you can defend every inch of territory. In fact the Syrian conflict is one long range of episodes where each party attacks the other at some place where he is weak.

You would need tens of thousands of soldiers just to defend the road to Aleppo from an ISIS attack with 1000 fighters. That is not feasible. The better strategy is to be flexible and to monitor the region so that you can the attacks coming from far and organize against it.

I was a bit puzzled by the efforts to conquer villages around the road to Aleppo. It doesn’t shorten the front lines. In fact it makes them longer as the soldiers are less able to defend both sides.

I have the same doubts about the conquests towards Palmyra. If they plan to go on towards Deir Ezzor it makes sense. But otherwise it just makes the frontlines a lot longer. Why not focus – for example – on controlling the area southwest of Palmyra so that you can deny ISIS access to the Daraa area?


There is an alternative to this.

If Turkey would not attack Manbij, guaranteed by Russia and US?, thet would free up many fighters from the SDF. They could launch an offensive to the south of Manby unti they reach SAA controlled territory.

This would shorten both their lines with IS, would bar Turkey from going to the south and would enable Assad to buy oil etc from the kurds.

Patrik Greeven

I fully agree exept your last statement: ” … enable Assad to buy oil from the kurds.”. Why should he do so? All the oil belongs to the syrian people and the syrian kurds for sure are kurds but syrian people too. Sorry, does not sound like a good suggestion…


If the Syrian Army clears all the small pockets around Damscus as well as north of Homs then they can liberate more troops for other fronts. ISIS is as stretched as the Syrian Army is and that’s why you don’t see any recent significant gains/losses from both sides.


From what I can gather most of the frontlines are held by local militias. If the pockets they guard get cleared they can’t transfer them to other places, they’re local militias after all. The actual number of SAA troops that are transferable is probably not that great.


I totally agree with you, Palmyra it’s pretty useless by it’s own, it’s only valuable to access to Euphrates cities and towns, the best SAA can do is clear the pockets to secure their territory a free resources

Patrik Greeven

The most important statement in this analysis is this one: “The Syrian army and its allies don’t have enough manpower (to defend the whole road).”. Nearly or more than 1.000.000 young syrian men leaved syria and their familiy in the direction of europe instead fighting for their country. Shame on them!

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