For some time now Syria and Iraq have been a place where interests of many players are clashing. The region is being devastated by civil war or a war by proxy, fought by a number of participants, where the borderline between friend and foe is sharp or vague as the case may be.
The military sorties, airstrikes and other activities are taking place on a day-to-day basis. Conflicting pieces of information that can be gleaned from a variety of sources may reflect both the factual status or the propaganda of the powers that be, hidden behind the media outlets. It is not easy to see the forest for the trees, to filter valuable data in this informational noise. Still, our readers deserve to be informed. With all this in mind, the Gefira team has made an effort to present the current situation in Syria and Iraq in an accessible graphic and textual way according to the best of our ability.
The Australian Defence Forces have an estimated 780 personnel in Iraq. At Camp Taji and other bases they have trained more than 20 000 of the Iraqi Security Forces and 3 000 federal policemen. Australia has 3 kinds of Task Groups in Iraq:
1) Task Group Taji – which is a training mission – 300 personnel;
2) Australian Air Task Group (ATG), operating within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and destroy ISIL. The ATG consists of six Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft and a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT);
3) Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) – about 80 personnel.
The Belgian mission in Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State was planned to end in June 2017, but Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel decided to extend it, and sent four F-16 fighter jets along with 100 troops to a base in Jordan to take part in the war against IS in Iraq and Syria.
The Royal Air Force (RAF Typhoon and Tornado jets and Reaper drones) has flown more than 3000 missions and launched over 1 600 airstrikes across Iraq and Syria. The British Army has already trained almost 60 000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops in bases at Besmaya, Taji and al-Asad.The UK has about 600 troops in Iraq, almost all involved in training Iraqi forces, and 80 soldiers in Camp Taji.
Denmark currently has around 120 troops stationed at the Al-Asad air base. Danish contribution in Iraq primarily consists of training Iraqi and Kurdish military units. At the end of 2016 it launched airstrikes against ISIS.
Operation Chammal, the French contribution to US-led military operations against Islamic State (IS), has been under way for 3 years. French aircraft have performed a total of 7 349 flights in Iraq and Syria with 1 413 strikes on Daesh and destroyed 2 197 objectives. France has supplied weapons and training to local forces in Syria and Iraq, has special forces operating in the region and has been one of the main countries bombing militants. In total, it has some 1 200 troops in its Levant operation.
The German contribution includes: a type 122 Augsburg frigate, six Tornado aircraft for surveillance operations in Syria, an Airbus 310 MRTT aircraft for aerial refuelling and participation of staff officers. The German government declared sending 1 200 soldiers to take part in the military operations. In fact the Bundeswehr sent between 500 and 700 soldiers.German troops have been helping train security forces in the area around Erbil in northern Iraq.
Iran currently has 70 000 combatants in Syria (counting both regular Iranian troops and militias under Iranian control: around 7 000 Hezbollah fighters, thousands of Afghan recruits in the Al Fatemiyoun militia, and volunteers from Iraq and Pakistan).
The Iraqi army numbers 168 000 active military personnel and 150 000 reserve personnel.
Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged weapons convoys bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.Israel’s real security interests in Syria lie in countering Hezbollah and monitoring the rise of Iranian influence.
The Italian contingent in Iraq is made up of approximately 1 400 military from all services of which 400 are currently engaged in Erbil, including 120 instructors. 70 military are deployed in Mosul to protect the dam and its personnel. The Carabinieri Task Force has been operating there since June 2015. The 90 members of the Task Force have been training Iraqi federal Police Forces tasked with operations to be conducted in areas conquered back from Daesh.
After the downed Jordanian pilot was executed by ISIL by being burned to death, King Abdullah II vowed revenge and temporarily took the lead in the bombing raids on ISIL. Current activities include airstrikes and protection of the Jordanian border.
The Dutch military personnel are training Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight the ISIS terrorist organization on the ground (150 trainers, advisers and security and logistic personnel, 35-man force protection for Belgian F-16).
Russia has deployed an S-400 air defense system, and stations Su-24 bombers at the Russian military base in Latakia.24)Russians have three bases in Syria: Latakia (also listening station), Tartus naval base and Khemeimim air base. Due to Russian military activities, Syrian government forces have an advantage.25)The Russian military intervention started on 30.09.2015 with 4 000 military personnel.26) Moscow has used the Russian Navy a few times like the Admiral Grigorovich. 27)According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian fighters carried out 672 sorties and bombed over 1 450 targets to support the “offensive by the militias of eastern Euphrates tribes and Kurdish militias”.28)Independent experts said up to 10,000 Russian troops and private contractors could have been deployed to Syria. He suggested that Russia had between 4,000 and 5,000 Russian military servicemen in Syria including personnel at Russia’s airbase in Khmeimim, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad in northwest Syria, and the Tartus naval facility. On top of that, independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer said, some 2 000 to 3 000 military advisors helped the Syrian army gain an upper hand over rebels and jihadists on the ground. 29)Vladimir Putin announced 11.12.2017 that his forces will start withdrawing from Syria after a two-year military campaign against ISIS.
The Gran Capitán military base in Bismayah, which is under Spanish command and where some 450 soldiers and members of Spain’s Civil Guard are stationed, along with US, British and Portuguese personnel have helped train 6 000 Iraqi troops.31)The continued presence of the Spanish Patriot missile battery on the border between Turkey and Syria was a decision taken at the request of the Turkish Government, within the framework of the NATO.
Al Assad’s army is made up of 154 000 active and 150 000 reserved military personnel.
Turkey has a military base in Iraq: in Bashiqa near Mosul, Northern Iraq and in the Shaqlawa region (near Erbil). Roughly 2 000 Turkish troops are currently in northern Iraq.34)35)In northern Syria after conducting Operation Euphrates Shield against ISIS and Kurdish militias, Turkey controls the region stretching from the city of Jarabulus on the Syria-Turkey border to Manbij, Al-Bab and northern Aleppo. Turkey is strengthening its position in the Middle East, also prevents the Kurdish state from coming into being.36)The Turkish military contingent in Syria was reduced from 8,000 to 1,500 people (also commandos, like 180 commandos in Syrian city Al-Bab).
The United States has about 5 200 troops in Iraq (primarily in an advisory capacity) and about 2 000 in Syria. Unofficial military sources announced that there are also 4 000 American troops in Syria.