Russian Special Forces Prepare to Retake Palmyra
Russian special forces arrived in the western countryside of Palmyra on Saturday evening and are expected to help Syrian forces retake the ancient city in the coming days
The (second) fall of Palmyra to ISIS came as a shock to almost everyone. (We are not trained in military matters, but apparently the major takeaway from this catastrophe is: controlling the high ground around Palmyra is the key to controlling the actual city.)
There's no dispute that Palmyra has been a major embarrassment for Russia. The liberation of the city was supposed to symbolize the effectiveness of Russian/Syrian/Iranian military cooperation and signal a turning point in the war.
Assad needed to take Palmyra to convince his people that the fight for Syria wasn't futile. Putin needed it to show the Russian people that the military operations in Syria were producing results.
This time it seems the Russians and the Syrians are planning to kick ISIS out of Palmyra (and the surrounding countryside) for good:
A convoy of Russian special forces arrived in the western countryside of Palmyra on Saturday evening after traveling from the coastal city of Jableh, a military source in east Homs told Al-Masdar News.
These soldiers from the Russian special forces will be tasked with advising the newly formed 5th Legion of the Syrian Arab Army as they attempt to liberate the Hayyan Gas Fields some 40km west of Palmyra.
According to the same military source, two large convoys of Syrian Arab Army soldiers also traveled to the western countryside of Palmyra from the Latakia Governorate this weekend; these units numbered well over 1,000 personnel.
The first target will be gas fields in western Palmyra under ISIS control, and then focus will likely be directed on the city itself.
Large convoy of Russian special forces arrived in west Palmyra from Latakia— Leith Abou Fadel (@leithfadel)February 12, 2017
It will be interesting to see if the Trump administration will sit on the sidelines, or offer help. Joint Russian-American operations against ISIS in Palmyra would certainly be a sight to see.