Monday, December 15, 2014

Destroying His Army to Destroy a City

Assad is still fighting in an effort to capture the northern city of Aleppo, after more than 2-1/2 years of effort. Is it worth it?

In the largely stalemated fight for control of Aleppo, land changes hands and casualties rise, but Assad still does not control the city. Lately he has made some gains:

Syria's army seized an area north of Aleppo on Sunday and killed insurgents as fierce battles raged over the strategic territory, a group monitoring the war and state media reported.

Syria's second city is at the heart of clashes between pro-government forces and a range of insurgents, including al Qaeda's Syria wing, Islamist brigades and Western-backed rebels.

This has been going on for a long time, and I have long doubted the objective is worth the effort:

I think Assad might be biting off more than he can chew. Sure, it is a big and important city with regime defenders to protect, but it is close to Turkey and adds more people to the defense perimeter of Core Syria than I think Assad has the forces to pacify.

While Assad has largely abandoned large parts of Syria to focus on a core Syria stretching from the coast down to Damascus, there is still resistance within that core Syria, making the Aleppo effort a dangerous diversion of military manpower; and Assad still tries to hold a major outpost in the east.

Meanwhile in the nearby north, jihadis inflicted a significant defeat on Assad's forces:

The Syrian army on Monday lost control of two strategic bases in the northwestern province of Idlib to coordinated assaults by Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, in coordination with Islamist rebels of Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham, seized Hamidiyeh and Wadi al-Deif bases, the biggest regime positions in Idlib.

Why we aren't working to support whatever acceptable rebels there are up there to keep Assad fighting in the north while denying jihadis a chance for victory should Assad fail to take the city, I have no idea.

Even if Assad takes Aleppo, can he afford to spare the troops to defend the city and keep whoever remains under control?