Since Russia’s air campaign began in Syria, its strikes have been relegated primarily to territory held by groups other than the Islamic State, including moderate opposition fighters and Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate—Jabhat al-Nusra, according to recently released data compiled by the Institute of the Study of War.
The majority of the Russian strikes have been in tandem with a Syrian ground offensive that has pushed into opposition-held territory with infantry and tanks backed by Russian artillery and multiple rocket launch systems.
According to Centcom, the airstrikes have had little effect for President Bashar al-Assad’s troops on the ground, but have actually helped Islamic State fighters in their bid to retake parts of Aleppo.
“I haven’t seen any indications that the Assad regime has been able to make progress based on the Russian airstrikes,” said Centcom spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren on Tuesday. “What we have seen, though…we have seen ISIL make progress based on Russian airstrikes.”
Warren, using a common acronym for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, added that the Russian airstrikes were “reckless” and “indiscriminate.”
The map below shows just how much the Russian strikes have been concentrated on territory not controlled by the Islamic State.
As Russian aircraft has pounded opposition and Nusra positions around the city of Hama, Free Syrian Army fighters—trained and supplied by the CIA—have expended a record number of U.S. provided anti-tank guided missiles (the BGM-71 TOW) repelling Syrian troops and armor that have tried to advance under the cover of the Russian air support. On the first day of the Russian-backed offensive, opposition fighters claimed to have destroyed more than 20 tanks, while videos posted online showed the TOW’s 152mm missile continuously spiraling into Syrian armored vehicles and personnel carriers.
While Centcom has reported it has seen no indication of Syrian gains, Russian reporters embedded with Syrian troops claim that the Syrian military has been able to retake a number of villages.
Since the start of Russia’s sorties in Syria, Warren said that Russian aircraft had carried out 80 strikes—including a salvo of cruise missiles that were launched from Russian missile ships in the Caspian Sea. A daily release from the Russian Defense Ministry, however, stated that Russia had attacked 86 Islamic State targets over the course of 88 sorties flown on Monday alone.
To the east of the country, U.S. and other coalition aircraft have continued continued to strike Islamic State targets, averaging three or four strikes a day in places like Ar Raqqa and Al Hawl. While much has been made about Russian aircraft deconflicting with coalition forces, Russian strikes rarely conflict where the U.S. has flown the majority of its sorties in the past month and a half.
In total the U.S. has conducted 2,642 strikes in Syria, according to Centcom.