Al-Qaeda Pretends It’s Not Losing Ground in Eastern Ghouta

first published on March 13, 2018 by

Al-Qaeda in Syria pretends it’s not losing ground in eastern Ghouta with a new propaganda video release. Unwittingly, they may have revealed more about their weaknesses and impending defeat in the contested Damascus suburb then they’d like to admit.

Al-Qaeda in Syria, rebranded Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) recently released a new propaganda film assuring its extremist followers about the groups “steadfastness” in the face of the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) brutal offensive. However, the film arguable does more to show the groups fading supremacy in the brief interim after the fall of the Islamic State. Especially when compared to past videos, HTS no longer looks like a slick, well-equipped, and effective fighting force, but a desperate rabble relying on suicide bombers to slow the inevitability of defeat.

The SAA has made major gains in the past few days, dividing the rebel district of eastern Ghouta into three smaller pockets. HTS is purportedly confined to the southern enclave of Jobar along with several other rebel groups. The SAA bombardments and offensive operations are reportedly ongoing throughout the area amidst calls from the international community for a ceasefire.

The edited propaganda video below details some of this recent fighting and offers a quick glimpse behind HTS’s lines. Using multiple SVBIED’s, they counter-attack the SAA during early morning lowlight conditions utilizing the tight streets of an urban neighborhood. They engage several armored vehicles and tanks at close range with RPG’s and continually harass their adversaries with swift hit and run tactics.

HTS’s survival and consolidation of power around Syria is thanks in part to ISIS. While the Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish governments, plus the myriad of regional and global powers involved primarily focused on the attention grabbing Islamic State, HTS was able to hide in the shadows. Rebranding itself several times and slowly picking up momentum during the decline of ISIS in 2017, they developed ties to the Turkish military and expanded its economic resources – acquiring heavy weapons including artillery, tanks, and BMP’s. In prior HTS propaganda, this equipment and their battlefield effectiveness was increasingly concerning. However, with ISIS out of the way, the SAA has been on an unrelenting pursuit of HTS – launching operations against them in Aleppo, Idlib, and now eastern Ghouta. With any luck, this trend of desperate rabble instead of formidable foe will continue in future propaganda releases.

Note: This film has been heavily edited for content. Jihadist sermonizing has been removed to reduce the videos propaganda value while documenting the combat footage.

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