Throughout Monday, video testified to heavy attacks by insurgents on the regime’s Mennegh airbase near Aleppo.
Then last night the claims started circulating — after a 10-month siege, opposition fighters had finally captured the base, one of the Syrian military’s last major positions in Aleppo Province.
Claimed footage of a suicide bombing with an armored BMP vehicle on Monday morning:
The Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group for the opposition based outside Syria, issued this statement via Twitter:
We commend the brave and determined FSA soldiers who have liberated the Menneg Military Airbase after a long and difficult battle. #Syria
— Syrian Coalition (@SyrCoalition) August 5, 2013
However, that brief congratulations — even if merited by the fall of Mennegh — only added a question:
Was it the Free Syrian Army, the “moderate” insurgency backed by the US and the “West”, who had claimed the prize? Or was it brigades outside the FSA — including “extremists” and “Islamists”, in the eyes of Washington and others, who had triumphed?
That question of the “insurgency” — whether it is moving as one, or whether we are now looking at several “insurgencies” of different characters and strengths — is an important one which will defy easy answer in the near-future.
So may be the military impact of Mennegh’s capture. On the surface, an insurgent victory should tighten the siege of regime positions in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
Opposition forces are hoping that, by choking off food and supplies, they can shift the stalemate of 13 months. Mennegh’s fall will make it more difficult for President Assad’s forces to move in personnel and equipment to maintain a line to Aleppo.
But significant challenges remain, even if the insurgency holds almost all the countryside in northern Syria. An EA correspondent assesses:
Regime forces still have lots of firepower in Idlib Province.. It seems their supplies are endless but in fact they have just huge ammunition dumps — and by huge I mean HUGE.
So insurgent tend to fall back on a “starve out regime forces” tactic on all battlefronts every once in a while, like with the Brick Factory [another key Syrian military position in the north] where they stopped on the inner perimeter suddenly a few days back.
Often lack of ammunition and heavy regime attacks on surrounding villages deter the insurgents too much [from a winning assault].