BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 A.M.) – The battle against the Islamic State (IS) is nearly finished for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), but the war in Syria is far from over.
With major jihadist groups like Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham still operating in several areas across Syria, the Syrian Arab Army will have their hands full in 2018 as they shift their attention away from the eastern part of the country.
In particular, the large HTS presence inside the Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib governorates is a major problem for the Syrian Army because their periodic offensives tend to wreck havoc on the government areas.
Unlike IS, HTS and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham tend to fortify and inhabit the areas they capture, which makes expelling them very difficult for the Syrian Army because they are deeply embedded in the towns and villages.
The Syrian Arab Army is now planning to attack these heavily fortified areas like Idlib and northern Hama, which are firmly under the control of HTS and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham.
Once these battles begin, the death toll in Syria is expected to skyrocket as the rough terrain and unyielding jihadists will prove difficult to overcome without a great deal of resources.