Russia Says Syria Gov’t Retakes Most Territory From IS

Russian air power has been instrumental in recent Syrian military successes. Russian air power has been instrumental in recent Syrian military successes.

Russia’s military said Tuesday that Syrian troops have liberated about 85% of the war-torn country’s territory from militants, a major turn-around two years after Moscow intervened to lend a hand to its embattled long-time ally.

Russia has been providing air cover for President Bashar Assad’s troops since 2015, changing the tide of the war and giving Syrian and allied troops an advantage over opposition fighters and the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, AP reported.

Speaking to reporters at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia, Lt. Gen. Alexander Lapin said the Syrian government still must clear the militants who hold approximately 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles), the remaining 15%.

At the height of its strength, IS controlled nearly half of Syria, seizing mostly territories in the east and north of Syria.

Around Syria, there are still pockets of other insurgents, some backed by Turkey and others by the US, in the northwest and north as well as in the south and near the capital. Militants affiliated with al-Qaida control Idlib Province, near the border with Turkey.

Russian air power has been instrumental in recent Syrian military successes. With Damascus facing major battlefield defeats, Moscow signed a deal with the Syrian government in August 2015 to deploy an air force contingent and other military assets at the Hemeimeem base.

In April 2016, Assad’s forces, relying on Russian air support, scored a major symbolic victory by taking the ancient town of Palmyra from the IS group. The IS militants carried out a counteroffensive but were finally driven out of the city in March 2017.

Assad’s greatest victory in the war, now in its seventh year, came when his troops and allied military forces, with Russian air support, gained full control of the city of Aleppo.

Senior Russian military officers as well as special forces were deployed alongside Syrian government troops, providing training, planning offensives and coordinating air strikes. Russia has also deployed its latest weapons to the Syrian conflict, including state-of-the-art Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian strategic bombers, navy surface warships and submarines, most recently in Deir al-Zor Province last week.

Russia has also co-sponsored talks with opposition fighters and the government to negotiate local cease-fires, and set up “de-escalation zones” in Syria, which were credited with reducing fighting around the country.

A new round starts this week in the Kazakh capital of Astana, on local cease-fires and de-escalation zones.


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