ISIS incurred territorial losses in Iraq and Syria between February 27 and March 9, 2017. Pro-regime forces recaptured Palmyra with the assistance of Iran, Russia, and Lebanese Hezbollah on March 2. Pro-regime forces seized additional villages from ISIS in northeast Aleppo province on March 7 and March 9, recapturing critical infrastructure.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is neither sovereign nor a viable U.S. partner against ISIS and al-Qaeda. Russia and Iran have penetrated the Syrian Arab Army’s command-and-control authorities at all levels and propped up the force by providing the bulk of its offensive combat power. The pro-regime coalition cannot secure all of Syria and primarily serves as a vehicle for Moscow and Tehran’s regional power projection.
Al Qaeda in Syria has resumed offensive operations against the Syrian regime in northern Syria after the fall of Aleppo City. The recapture of Aleppo City by Syrian president Bashar al Assad and his external backers was a turning point in the Syrian civil war, but it did not seal Assad’s victory. It was instead a victory for Al Qaeda because it defeated Al Qaeda’s main competitors in northern Syria. Al Qaeda consolidated its strength and resumed offensive operations against pro-Assad forces in February 2017. Pro-Assad forces could begin to lose terrain to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will increasingly pose a threat to the West as its strength in northern Syria grows. The contest between Al Qaeda and pro-Assad forces, which include Iran and Russia, will increasingly challenge U.S. policy options in Syria.
Opposition groups backed by Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij in Northern Aleppo Province. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) conducted a complex attack targeting two heavily-secured regime intelligence branches in Homs City. Pro-regime forces recaptured Palmyra in Eastern Homs Province from ISIS.
These are the major events from March 01, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) isolated Mosul completely on March 1 as units advanced within the city towards the government center. The Popular Mobilization are nearing Tel Afar from the west and could breach the city in the coming weeks.
An open conflict will likely erupt imminently between Turkey and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the town of Manbij in Northern Syria.
ISIS could be facing difficulty coordinating successful attacks in Iraq as losses in Mosul are forcing it to transform from a governing to guerrilla style terrorist organization.
ISIS launched offensives against the Syrian regime in Deir ez Zour, eastern Homs province, and eastern Damascus province in January 2017, exploiting the regime’s focus on Aleppo and attempting to offset or divert regime operations near al-Bab. Regime forces began to reverse ISIS’s gains in Homs province on February 14. ISIS lost additional territory in Mosul to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in early 2017.