VZGLIAD correspondent Evgeny Krutikov has written several detailed and interesting dispatches from the Syrian War. This is his piece from yesterday, delivering troubling news about a Syrian army setback and significant losses of men.
Krutikov believes that the decision of the Syrian Army leadership to storm al-Raqqa was a tactical mistake, he says he predicted this defeat, and he laid out his reasons in this earlier piece from June. The heavily-fortified city of Al-Raqqa with a population of 200,000 souls, is the headquarters of the ISIS terrorist organization. Krutikov felt that it was folly to try to take it by storm. He believed that the strategically correct plan was to surround and besiege the city. He also believed that the strategic choice between Al-Raqqa and Aleppo was a no-brainer: They should have picked Aleppo as their focus.
Instead, the ill-organized (according to Krutikov) Syrian army offensive against Al-Raqqa was predictably pushed back by the terrorists yesterday. ISIS troops countered the offensive with their own attack in the bare desert along the road Itria-Tabqa. Al-Tabqa is the site of the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River.
In just the first 24 hours alone of the jihadi counter-offensive, the Syrians lost 15-20 kilometers of territory along the highway. The jihadis proceeded as follows, in their usual style: Trucks loaded with “martyrs” (i.e., suiciders) swarmed Syrian army checkpoints along the highway, and even though some trucks were blasted to hell by cannon fire, enough of them got through to force the Syrian soldiers into retreat. Exact number of casualties is not known, but the estimate is that several hundred Syrian soldiers were killed. This is a significant loss for a struggling and exhausted army.
Ten Terrorists In a Tank
In this particular clash, Russian air support was not effective, according to Krutikov. The Russians helpfully bombed at least two intersections of the highway which had been taken by the terrorists, but there was not really that much to bomb — the terrorists did not have much armored technology, and their use of suiciders in the first ranks of the stormers made it sort of redundant to kill them anyhow.
The fact remains that the Syrian Army still possesses an overall superiority in men and equipment. The ISIS jihadis skate by with the use of cunning tactics at the lowest levels of combat. And are also masters at exploiting any mistakes made by the other side. Of which there were a number. Krutikov is critical of the “boastful” attitude of certain Syrian brass, who kept promising their people an endless series of glorious victories, and then didn’t deliver.
For example, the terrorists are masters at exploiting communication gaps among the far-flung units of the Syrian army. As a result of which, ten terrorists crammed into one tank can cause havoc among entire mechanized units of a professional army. The terrorists also enjoy a tactical advantage in their use of suiciders. Something that no real army does.
Due to yesterday’s tactical setback, Krutikov gloomily assesses that the Syrian “strike front” on al-Raqqa no longer exists, despite the fact that the losses in men were not catastrophic.
Go to Deir ez-Zor, Therein Lies Victory
Krutikov, offering free advice to the Syrian army, hammers his idea: Go to Deir ez-Zor. Isolate al-Raqqa. Eventually the terrorists will suffocate on their own.
But no… The Syrian brass designated al-Raqqa as their second most important strategic goal, after Palmyra. Well, Palmyra was a brilliant success — and achieved ahead of schedule. But al-Raqqa is proving a tougher nut to crack. The terrorists should not be under-estimated. Especially considering that, among their commanders are several hardened and experienced Iraqi officers. Some of whom even studied at Soviet military institutes, back in the day.
Meanwhile, one group of terrorists is still holed up in a cauldron near the town of Manbij. The terrorists made several attempts to break out of the cauldron, but were repulsed by surrounding Kurdish units. The Kurds are there along with their American “special ops” advisors.
The Aleppo front remains in a blood-drenched stalemate, the front never budges for a second, even though each of the three main sides (Syrian government, jihadis, and “Moderate jihadis”) has lost up to 1000 men each.
Over the entire range of the various fronts, an overall stalemate ensues. And so it has been over the past five years. Although a slight and creeping advantage slowly accrues to the Syrian army. If only this slight advantage should not be squandered by certain elements within the Syrian brass who are impatient for astounding victories with fireworks and parades. These elements are playing to the “national mentality” of the Syrians, who thirst for a definitive and successful outcome. “And yet now,” according to Krutikov, “it is necessary to calmly admit that an operative defeat has taken place. The causes lay in the underestimation of the opponent, and in certain mistakes of strategic planning process. It is necessary to pause, rest a bit, and then look in the direction of Deir ez-Zor. Victory lies in that direction. Go there.”