Stalled negotiations between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Balkh warlord Mohammad Atta Noor may lead to a protracted conflict that would endanger the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Atta has negotiated with Ghani for over a year in order to gain a greater share of power for himself personally and for his political party, Jamiat-e Islami. Atta has threatened imminent mass demonstrations if Ghani does not agree to electoral and constitutional reforms that would likely set favorable conditions for Atta to run for president in 2019.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Russia and Iran are preparing to launch imminent combat operations in violation of the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. Al Qaeda is also likely preparing for a return of hostilities to southern Syria. The end of the ceasefire would generate new military and humanitarian crises on the borders of Jordan and Israel.
The Assad regime and Iran attacked Turkish forces that deployed into Syria with apparent Russian permission to establish a blocking position near a critical front line south of Aleppo City. Turkey’s goal was to deter Assad and Iran from providing military support to Kurdish forces defending Afrin against a Turkish offensive.
It will take a long time and a hard struggle to achieve any outcome in Syria that the U.S. should be willing to live with. It is time to focus on it, devote resources to it, and prepare to do so for a long time, ISW's Jennifer Cafarella writes in a January 2018 opinion essay.
Turkey is preparing to launch the main effort of its Operation Olive Branch assault against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin area in northern Syria. Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups have set military conditions for a Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) ground operation in the coming days.
Turkey launched an air-ground operation against the American partner force in Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in Afrin district northwest of Aleppo City on January 20th, 2018. Turkey’s goal is to extend its buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey may subsequently attack the town of Manbij, east of Afrin on the banks of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s operations threaten to provoke a widening Turkish-Kurdish war that could unravel the U.S. stabilization effort in eastern Syria, place U.S. service members in Manbij at risk, and force the U.S. to reconsider support for the YPG.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to attack America’s local partner in northern Syria on two fronts along the Turkish border. Russia and the Bashar al Assad regime support his planned operation, which could constrain the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River and possibly neutralize American plans to build an SDF-linked “border security force.”
Turkey is using a combination of military and diplomatic pressure to compel Russia and Iran to halt further offensive operations against Syria’s al Qaeda dominated Idlib Province. An Assad-Iranian-Russian conquest of Idlib is not in America’s national security interest.
Any U.S. strategy relying on a partnered force must proceed from a realistic assessment of its capabilities and intentions. The Institute for the Study of War completed an Order of Battle study to evaluate the capabilities and disposition of the ISF. This study also presents an Order of Battle of the PMF to help U.S. decision makers and forces on the ground recognize and remediate the presence of Iranian-backed militias within the ISF.
Al Qaeda is growing stronger in Southern Syria. An assassination campaign targeting mainstream opposition commanders and governance officials is facilitating al Qaeda’s consolidation of power along the borders of Jordan and Israel. Southern Syria stands at increasing risk of becoming a second Idlib Province, which currently serves as a formidable safe haven for al Qaeda.