Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aleppo Campaign Update: Pro-Regime Forces Advance in Aleppo City

By Christopher Kozak

Pro-regime forces backed by heavy airstrikes seized the Masakin Hanano, Jabal Badro, Sakhur, and Haydariyah Districts of Eastern Aleppo City on November 26 - 27, recapturing nearly a third of the remaining urban pocket held by opposition forces. At the same time, the Syrian Democratic Forces – a coalition dominated by the Syrian Kurdish YPG – advanced from their local stronghold in the Sheikh Maqsoud District to seize positions at least five opposition-held neighborhoods including the Bustan al-Pasha, Huluk, Ayn al-Tal, Ba’edin, and Sheikh Fares Districts. Activist sources claimed that opposition groups withdrew from the region as part of a handover deal with the Syrian Democratic Forces meant to protect civilians while opposition fighters consolidate their defenses deeper within Eastern Aleppo City. At least sixteen thousand civilians subsequently fled from Eastern Aleppo City to Sheikh Maqsoud District or regime-held districts of Western Aleppo City. 
The looming fall of Eastern Aleppo City to the regime and its allies poses a major threat to the long-term interests of the U.S. in Syria. Eastern Aleppo City serves as one of the last remaining major hubs of acceptable opposition groups in Northern Syria. The surrender of Eastern Aleppo City will likely drive these groups into deeper partnership with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, and other Salafi-Jihadist Groups in order to preserve their military effectiveness on the battlefield. An ongoing humanitarian crisis also appears poised to further exacerbate as pro-regime forces methodically tighten their siege on the thousands of opposition fighters and tens of thousands of civilians remaining in Eastern Aleppo City, generating grievances that will further bolster the appeal of Salafi-Jihadist Groups. At the same time, the fall of Aleppo City will not mark the end of the Syrian Civil War. Opposition groups will likely wage an increasingly-radicalized insurgency across Northern Syria with continued support from regional backers such as Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The success of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo City thus stands only to open a new phase of the conflict that bolsters the long-term staying power of Salafi-Jihadist Groups in Syria.