Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-VIII

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading this part!

 

Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have eighth part — «Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military«. Text may be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).


 

Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria— p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213

 

Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military.

Understanding the futility of the dialogue on Aleppo with the Americans pushed the Russian side to intensify bilateral contacts with regional powers and even directly — with the opposition militants. Since the beginning of December, in Ankara there have been series of non-public contacts between Russian military, representatives of the Turkish special services and armed groups. The result was the second phase of the evacuation of representatives of illegal armed formations and residents from the blocked zone, which began on December 15, 2016.

The operation for the withdrawal of militants was unprecedented in scale. In the vicinity of the Ramus Bridge, an entrance to a 6-kilometer humanitarian corridor was prepared, which linked the blocked last stronghold of militants to the Rashidin-4 district, which was under the control of the opposition. Throughout the road, Syrian troops were withdrawn, and six checkpoint were set. They were on duty by Russian officers from the Center for Reconciliation in Khmeimim, who were ensurig the safety of the passage of columns of transport with people.

With the announcement of the operation at all international platforms, an information campaign was launched from the submission of «friends of Syria» and with the direct participation of Western UN officials. There were attempts to blame Russia for refusing to grant access to «independent observers» in order to conceal «the crimes of the B. Assad regime» during the evacuation. At the meetings of the Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva, representatives of European countries (Italy, Germany, France) with horror in their voices were talking about «arrests and shootings» of people leaving the city. The world’s leading mass media were alarmed: civilians, including teachers, doctors and humanitarian workers who leave East Aleppo, are detained and forcefully taken to the government army [1]. They were echoed by the «human rights» offices feeding from the hands of Western capitals, which organized a campaign to spread information about some man «detained» during the evacuation with a call to beat the alarm and to seek his release [2] (interestingly, how would London, where the headquarters of the NGO «Amnesty International» is located, react to calls for the release of persons suspected of terrorism?).

pic_-_amnestyint_man_missing


Amnesty International’ desperate appeal to release a «detained» man.

Of course, there were also some structures specially created for replicating fakes about Syria. For example, the Syrian Human Rights Network (registered in the UK, funded from London and Doha) told about the arrest by the «regime» of the whole convoy with people who were to be evacuated from Eastern Aleppo [3]. This information had so evidently fabricated character that even the UN human rights structures, which usually are not objective at all, did not dare use it.

pic_-_sn4hr_fake


Syrian Human Rights Network spreading obvious fake.

The truth was this. The evacuation took place under the supervision of international organizations, primarily the ICRC, WHO, as well as UN staff, who had the opportunity to be convinced of the lack of violations of international humanitarian law during the operation. Buses and ambulance carriages of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Society came to the blocked city, they loaded the militants, their families, the wounded and everyone who wanted to leave the zone and moved to Idlib. By the way, among the UN humanitarian agencies it was the World Health Organization who right away responded to the call to provide independent monitoring of the evacuation process, immediately sent of their people to the humanitarian corridors, who shoulder to shoulder with the Russian officers provided an exit.

The operation was not smooth. Pro-Iranian formations on December 17 took advantage of the evacuation from Eastern Aleppo to solve the problem in which their coreligionists found themselves in the Shiite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafarya (Idlib province), blocked by extremists from Ahrar al-Sham. Buses with militants were unexpectedly stopped by «Hezbollah», which put forward a demand — the evacuation will continue only if people from Fu’ah and Kafarya will be taken out. Buses were sent in Idlib to save the Shiites. But the action ended tragically — the terrorist group «Jund al-Aqsa» on the way to Fu’ah and Kafarya fired a column of 50 buses, 20 of which burned down (a curious remark — the Americans blocked in the UN Security Council the adoption of a statement for the press condemning the attack of militants on the convoy). Two drivers died. The situation has become a crisis.

During the talks between the heads of diplomatic and military departments of Russia, Turkey and Iran on December 20, 2016 in Moscow, it was agreed that along with the evacuation from Aleppo, people from the Shiite enclaves would be taken out too. On December 23, 2016, Russian Defense Minister S.K. Shoigu reported to President V.V. Putin on the end of the operation to liberate Aleppo.

Indeed, it was an unprecedented operation, no overstatement.

For the first stage, 115 quarters were vacated, almost 82 sq. km. During this time, 7 humanitarian corridors were created, through which about 110 thousand people left the city. 9 thousand militants ceased resistance [4].

The second stage — after the suspension of hostilities on December 15 — was to conduct a large-scale humanitarian operation to withdraw radical militants, members of their families, women, children [5]. 31,284 people were withdrawn, 701 of them were wounded. The number of militants who took advantage of the offer to leave the city amounted to 14,891 people. Amongst the released — 7606 women and 8787 children. The operation was provided during the day by a large group of officers of the Armed Forces of Russia, controlled by flying apparatuses, web-cameras at the entrances and exits from the city [6], for which seven command posts were established.

As it was said above, the operation was provided by about 60 employees of international organizations.

After districts of Aleppo one by one began to pass under the control of the Syrian government, the Russian military from the International Mine Action Center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation arrived to city to clean it from explosive items. They have done a tremendous work of demining Aleppo, creating the necessary conditions for the return of inward-displaced persons and the safe operation of the UN humanitarian agencies. Approximately 3 thousand hectares of territory, 1 thousand km of roads, 5 thousand buildings (including schools, hospitals, socially significant infrastructure facilities) have been cleared [7]. Unfortunately, we have to admit that international organizations did not render assistance in this to Russia, and our military had to go all alone, street after street, to clean the city of explosive devices.

The «arc» of Aleppo-Hama-Homs-Damascus, connected by transport highways, passed under the control of the Syrian government. In a sense, it became a «rod» of strategic stability for B. Assad. During the report to the President, S.K. Shoigu noted that the next step should be the announcement of a regime for the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria. The truce indeed became effective on December 30, 2016.

On the other hand, an unprecedented scale of operation for the withdrawal of militants from Aleppo is now being considered by many members of illegal armed formations as an option in case when the ring of encirclement gets tighten. The level of trust of the armed opposition to the Russian and Syrian negotiators has increased. The temptation to avoid bloody clashes through the achievement of appropriate agreements has been increased. It is no coincidence that after the liberation of Eastern Aleppo, the number of «local pacifications» throughout Syria increased significantly, with the mediation of the Russian Center in Khmeimim.

The military meaning of the operation for the liberation of Eastern Aleppo is of serious interest both from the point of view of assessing the fighting capacity of the Syrian government troops and to study the experience of the use of the Russian Armed Forces. The victory was the result of a complex combination of measures of a power character with a whole series of special events using methods of psychological struggle, the use of modern technologies, units of special operations forces (SOF). Intelligence service and negotiators of the Center for Reconciliation, in cooperation with Syrian colleagues, effectively shattered the militants’ defense. The point liquidation of their commanders by the SOF fighters disorganized the anti-government forces, and a powerful information-psychological impact forced them to seek peaceful ways of settling the conflict. This experience, undoubtedly, will be studied by the Russian military and will be in demand in future at other places, considering the growing threat of international terrorism.


[1] Ensor J., Alhaji Y. Civilians Fleeing Rebel-Held East Aleppo «Detained and Conscripted» by Syrian Forces / J. Ensor, Y. Alhaji // The Telegraph. 2016. 5
December.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/05/civilans-fleeing-rebel-held-east-aleppo-detained-conscripted/

[2] Man Missing During East Aleppo Evacuation. Amnesty International. 20 January 2017 //

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/01/man-missing-during-east-aleppo-evacuation/

[3] Syrian Network for Human Rights. Syrian Regime and Its Militias Detained Civilians Evacuated From Aleppo’ Besieged Neighborhoods. Dec 16-SNHR //

http://sn4hr.org/blog/2016/12/16/syrian-regime-militias-detained-civilians-evacuated-aleppo-besieged-neighborhoods-dec-16-snhr/

[4] Working meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. The head of the military department briefed the President on the end of the operation to liberate the Syrian city of Aleppo. December 23, 2016 //

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53575

[5] ibid. (see footnote #4)

[6] Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. A live broadcast from the humanitarian corridor checkpoints in Syrian Aleppo is organized on the official website of the Defense Ministry //

http://syria.mil.ru/en/index/syria/news/more.htm?id=12101946@egNews

[7] A reference on Russian efforts for humanitarian demining in the Syrian Arab Republic. February 15, 2017 // Center for rapid response to violations of the cessation of hostilities (Geneva).

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