Conflict update: November 22 (exciting job opportunity inside!)


Say, are you looking for a change of pace, something to shake up your dreary work routine? Have you thought about changing careers? Do you meet the strict physical requirements of the Syrian Arab Army (as long as you’re not completely bedridden from some sort of wasting disease, you’re good to go)? If so, boy, has Bashar al-Assad got an offer for you:

Syria’s military announced it is forming a new commando force, calling on volunteers interested in “achieving the final victory against terrorism” to apply.

The announcement on Tuesday, which named the new force the Fifth Corps, didn’t specify where it would be deployed.

Hot damn! Finally, an army formed “to meet people’s wishes to put an end to terrorist acts in the Syrian Arab Republic,” as the Syrian government put it. Granted, since Syria fills its army with conscripts it’s a little odd that it should now be looking for volunteers, but, hey, an offer like this doesn’t come along every day! Slots are going fast, as far as you know, so you better hurry up and make the call!

Sugar-coating aside, Assad is, bottom line, out of soldiers. He openly admitted as much less than 18 months ago, and while everything that’s happened since is a testament to Assad’s masterful ability to inspire his men to accomplish seemingly impossible deeds convince Russia to fight his civil war for him, apparently he’s still out of soldiers. It no longer seems like that’s going to be an obstacle to winning the war, depending on how you define “winning” in this case, but it could be an obstacle to keeping the peace once the war ends.

Russia is presumably committed to pulling Assad over the finish line, again depending on how you define “finish line” here, but it’s still very much an open question as to how much longer they’re prepared to stick around and how willing they’ll be to redeploy if Assad’s hold on power starts to slip again. Some enterprising future Syrian rebel could, if he were particularly enterprising, try to start cultivating a relationship with Putin right now in order to make him think twice about expending more blood and treasure on Assad a year, hypothetically, after the current round of fighting ends. At some point even Moscow is going to expect Assad to stand on his own, and if he’s asking for volunteers to finish the war for him then he might be in a little trouble there.

The US is saying that an air strike in Idlib last week killed Abu Afghan al-Masri (this has to be a pseudonym), a “senior leader” in Jabhat Fatah al-Sham/al-Qaeda. The only information on this guy available online appears to be that he’s dead now.


Iraqi forces have reportedly entered Mosul’s Zohour neighborhood, which represents some tangible progress in an operation that has seemed bogged down for the past several days. Of potentially more interest is the report that the US has destroyed another of the five bridges that span the Tigris River inside Mosul. This would make three of the five bridges destroyed and should make it more difficult for ISIS to move forces from the western bank of the river, which it still controls in full, to the eastern bank, where the Iraqis are attacking. Destroying these bridges is not without cost, as it hampers civilian movement as well as ISIS’s movement, but it’s presumably a risk worth taking to impede ISIS’s defenses.

On the undeniably positive front, several ISIS-set oil fires near Qayara have been extinguished. Several more are still blazing, however.

South Asia

Three Indian soldiers have reportedly been killed in Kashmir, and the Indian government is blaming Pakistan for their deaths. It’s been just over a week since Pakistan accused India of killing seven Pakistani soldiers in Kashmir, and I only mention these things in passing because of the possibility that they could, hypothetically, escalate into a nuclear exchange. Just a funny little quirk about that zany India-Pakistan relationship. Anyway, goodnight!


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