Sunday, 2 June 2013

Al-Qusayr: Final Push

The battle for al-Qusayr is ongoing. The army’s strategy from the beginning of May was to surround and isolate the city, bombard militant positions in an attempt to break resistance and inflict heavy losses.
To implement this strategy, the army’s deployment included elements of the 3rd, 4th, and Republican Guard Armored Divisions backed by Hezbollah fighters and National Defence Force personnel.
Following a stunning deployment of artillery and airpower on May 19th, Syrian forces and it’s allied guerrilla detachments of the National Defence Forces (NDF) and Hezbollah stormed al-Qusayr. Within the first day, the centre of the  city was secured.


The importance of Hezbollah’s involvement is notable – a high professional and coherent guerrilla movement which makes for an effective and reliable fighting force in the battle for the key city.
Due to it’s proximity to Lebanon, al-Qusayr is an attractive position for militant groups trafficking arms and personnel. al-Qusayr is a strategic link between Damascus, the coast, and Homs, Hama and Aleppo to the north.
The fight for al-Qusayr has seen the co-ordinated deployment of the army’s inventory – combining elite army units and effective guerrilla fighters supported by armour, artillery and airpower.
In keeping with increased sectarian rhetoric emanating from opposition circles, allegations abound that Hezbollah is “leading the fight” and outnumbers government troops. The opposite is true, with government troops accounting for some eighty per-cent of the deployment.
Although initial efforts by government forces was impressive and fruitful, sources predicted that the securing of the city in total may “take weeks”.  Counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently difficult to execute, and require continuous rethinking. The remaining militant groups are resisting with a combination of sniper units, booby traps and attacks from entrenched and concealed positions.
The al-Qusayr assault is an operational-level action with the army and it’s allies using battle and maneuver to later achieve strategic goals in Homs. Indeed, the army in engaged at many flashpoints in the vicinity of al-Qusayr; Arjounal-Daba’a and al-Hamadiyeh being such examples. The overwhelming deployment has resulted in chaos, confusion and desperation behind enemy lines. The operational level of war is strongly associated with Soviet and Russian military thought.


Many claims of large-scale reinforcements have been made by militant groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra. The Syrian army’s successful fast paced battle and maneuver tactics, desperate calls for assistance by encircled militants  and a romanticised view of being killed in action in a battle that will inevitably be lost, compels insurgents and supporters to send reinforcements.
Claims circulated yesterday that a militant detachment from Liwa al-Tawhid had reached al-Qusayr. Similarly, a much reported claim by Jabhat al-Nusra last week proved to be unrealistic and untrue. Videos uploaded showed groups of militants in isolated, rural and open areas – underlining speculation that claims of sending “reinforcements” amount to propaganda.
Images uploaded yesterday allegedly show one such detachment who were ambushed as they attempted to infiltrate the  al-Qusayr area of Syrian army operations. Graphic images seen by Syria Report from the scene indicate heavy losses for insurgents who were ambushed.
Media reports suggested today that militants in al-Qusayr were reinforced with one thousand men. Separately, a map circulated by militants and supporters depicted a corridor, claimed to have been briefly opened to allow passage of reinforcements. Both claims are vastly different and are probably false.
Map depicts militant reinforcements entering the battlefield through Shamsin village. If true, the detachment will un undoubtedly be met by a ring of Syrian forces
Map depicts militant reinforcements entering the battlefield through Shamsin village. If true, the detachment will undoubtedly be met by a high concentration of Syrian forces


The battle for al-Qusayr is not the final one. It is hugely significant and following an inevitable victory for the Syrian army, the rest of Homs looks set to be secured, with militant supply lines from Lebanon broken.
Significantly, the offensive may indicate the Syrian army’s strategy for future operations. In other flashpoints, continuous confrontation between the army and militants underline the oftentimes nature of the conflict – fast paced exchanging of territory with neither side necessarily holding ground. Al-Qusayr strategy is different – fast paced, pin-point battle and maneuver tactics employing and coordinating infantry, airpower, armour and artillery.
The following video shows the army in Arjoun, close to al-Qusayr and al-Daba’a


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