Thursday, November 05, 2015

Sending in the Buses?

The offensive to relieve the siege of Syrian troops (and supporters) in Aleppo opened up the major road leading to the main part of Assad's territory. Now what?

The Syrians with support from their Hezbollah, Iranian, and Russian allies, pushed through to Aleppo in the north:

The Syrian army regained control of a road southeast of Aleppo on Wednesday, taking back the government's only supply route into the city from Islamic State fighters who had seized it last month.

State TV said army forces took full control of the road which runs from Aleppo through the towns of Khanaser and Ithriya and links up with the cities of Hama and Homs further south. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the report.

The road is the army's supply route to government-held western parts of Aleppo, home to around 2 million people.

State TV rolled live footage of the road being reopened. Cheering Syrian soldiers crowded around a reporter who declared: "The buses did not wait until tomorrow morning" to begin using the road again, as a handful of vehicles drove behind them.

Buses? Not trucks for supplies or troops to bolster defenders to hold the area? Buses? That carry people and their baggage?

Like I wrote when the offensive started, I figured the objective was more likely to be a mission to evacuate supporters:

[It] makes far more sense to me for an operation aimed at Aleppo to be a rescue effort to evacuate the troops and civilians still trapped up there and then retreat back to the Core Syria further south.

Aleppo has always seemed like a bridge too far for Assad's ground forces to hold.

And of course, the city is only part of the problem for Assad. East of the city, the Kweires airport remains under siege, as that first article notes. So no evacuation from the city should be telegraphed until the airport is relieved, too, to prevent the jihadis around there from turning an evacuation into a retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.

Or who knows? Maybe the appeal of holding Aleppo is too strong for Assad to resist even if abandoning the city is what I would have recommended a long time ago if I was on Assad's national security team.

UPDATE: The Syrian armed forces and their friends are making progress toward reaching Kweires:

State news agency SANA says troops and pro-government gunmen captured the village of Sheikh Ahmad in Aleppo province on Monday.

That would put them about 2 kilometers from the base.

I'd expect an evacuation more than I'd expect an attempt to reinforce and hold the area.