The map of military influence in Syria for March 2018 shows slight change in the distribution of control among most of the forces compared to the distribution rations documented in the previous month. March witnessed prominent events including the Syrian regime gaining total control of the Eastern Ghouta, with the exception of Douma City, at the expense of the opposition forces as well as the forces participating in Olive Branch Operation taking complete control of Afrin city and all its areas.
According to the monthly map Jusoor Center for Studies releases, the control ratios are as follows:
The Syrian regime maintained the control ratio recorded last month that amounts to 54.63% of Syrian territory. The ratio is constant despite regime force advances east of Damascus as the regime lost other areas to ISIS in the south-west of the country.
ISIS achieved a slight increase in its control ratio that amounted to 7.79% compared to 7.73 % in the previous month.
The area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) shrank for the SDF control ratio to decrease to 24.93% compared to the 25.53% ratio recorded in the previous month. The decrease is due to the SDF’s strategic loss of the Afrin area north of Aleppo.
Opposition factions achieved a noticeable increase in their control ratio of 12.64% compared to the 11.8% ratio recorded in the previous month. The increase is due to the opposition factions expanding their control to areas in Afrin estimated to be 0.89%.
Syrian North- Al-Ghab Plain
There was no change in the control over areas between the Syrian regime and the opposition factions in the Syrian North during March 2018; however, al-Ghab Plain area in Hama’s northern countryside witnessed noticeable military movements.
The Russian general in charge of Hama’s western countryside strip informed the military factions and civil actors in al-Madiq Castle and its countryside of Russia’s intention to deploy observation points in the area on March 1. The general gave them the choice of accepting this deployment peacefully or by force. On March 12, the head of the local council in the city of al-Madiq Castle said that Russia backed away from its threats.
A Turkish military delegation conducted an exploration of points in the Al-Ghab Plain area in north-western Hama countryside with the aim of establishing observation points in the area on March 13. The delegation visited the town of Tal al-Qarqur and the Agriculture Development building, but no new occurrences have taken place in this regard.
On March 14, the Syrian opposition factions announced the launch of the battle “Anger for Ghouta”. The opposition forces were able to seize control of the strategic Karnaz Town, but they were unable to maintain control of the town. The regime managed to recapture the town primarily due to the opposition forces’ poor military planning.
Northern Syria- Afrin Area
The forces participating in the Olive Branch Operation announced it had gained almost complete control of Afrin and its surrounding areas north west of Aleppo on March 18, 2018. The announcement came less than two months after the launch of the operation.
Turkey did not announce the end of the Olive Branch Operation and it linked that to extending control over Tal Rifat and its vicinity. Tal Rifat area is still controlled by People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the pro-Syrian regime Popular Forces. The Turkish Army has tried to negotiate with its Russian counterpart that is deployed in the area, but nothing has been achieved in this regard.
By taking control of Afrin, Turkey has extended its direct influence in Syria to nearly 5000 km2 and achieved the previously mentioned objectives. This motivates Turkey to move the weight of its forces to the Manbij area north-east of Aleppo.
The Syrian regime forces and its allied militias took control of the central strip and the city of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta following an agreement signed between Ahrar al-Sham Movement and Russia on March 20, 2018 and a similar agreement signed with al-Rahman Corps on March 23, 2018.
Consequently, the Syrian regime took almost complete control of the Eastern Ghouta except for the city of Douma and some farms in its vicinity. Russia is trying to make Douma’s fate the same as that of the central strip and Harasta. Russia said that it will achieve this objective by either diplomatic or military solutions. In this regard, a Russian military delegation is negotiating with a civil-military committee from Douma city. The two sides have been unable to make significant progress during the rounds held in March.