Opposition groups backed by the U.S. and Turkey seize the town of Jarablus from ISIS; the YPG starts withdrawal from Manbij; U.S. SOF relocates from Hasakah City; and more.
Russia launched airstrikes from the Shahid Nojeh Airbase in Hamedan Province in Western Iran following the conclusion of a basing agreement and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces seized full control of Manbij
Russia enabled pro-regime forces to complete the physical encirclement of Aleppo City on July 28, isolating the primary nexus of the non-jihadist opposition in Northern Syria. These gains threaten the long-term survival of mainstream opposition groups that could serve as potential partners against ISIS and Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
Since 2014, ISW has been tracking Jabhat al- Nusra, the official al- Qaeda affiliate in Syria. ISW believes that Jabhat al- Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi- jihadi group. ISW recognizes ISIS and al Qaeda are Salafi- jihadi military organizations with distinct sources of strength and maintains that U.S. strategy must operate against both ISIS and Jabhat al- Nusra simultaneously. Focusing on an "ISIS first" strategy will result in Nusra continuing to grow stronger.
ISW has produced nearly 60 maps on Russian airstrikes in Syria since they first began on September 30, 2015. The first map appeared less than 24 hours after the Russians began strikes and they continue today as do the strikes despite a declared "cessation of hostilities" and an alleged Russian withdrawal.
Russia continues to pressure the U.S. and regional actors into closer cooperation through its military intervention in Syria. Russia ultimately seeks to supplant the U.S. as a security guarantor in the Middle East and has used its air campaign in Syria to galvanize its demands for greater coordination in the theater.
ISIS currently faces an unprecedented threat to its core terrain in Northern Syria from an array of competing actors. Nonetheless, the degrading position of ISIS in Northern Syria is poised to ignite further conflict. The terrain vacated by ISIS will likely host renewed competition between Syrian Kurds, opposition groups, and pro-regime forces as well as a geopolitical struggle involving Turkey, Syria, Russia, and the U.S. These conflicts could stall further progress against ISIS in Syria.
The tempo of Russian air operations has dramatically escalated in Syria. The rate and breadth of Russian airstrikes nearly tripled from May 29 – June 2 in comparison to the previous five day period. ISW was able to assess a total of 29 Russian airstrikes with low and high confidence beginning on May 29 and only 10 locations from May 24 -28.