The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan supported by Turkey continue their large-scale offensive to capture the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian forces. Following the gains of the previous days, when Azerbaijani forces captured the towns of Talish, Jabrayil and Mataghis, they developed momentum in the Jabrayil district capturing the villages of Shikhali Agali, Sari jali, and Mezre, and several other hill tops, according to the country’s president Ilham Aliyev.
Currently, Azerbaijani forces are working to consolidate their gains and conduct artillery and air strikes on positions of the Armenians preparing for a further offensive. So, the Azerbaijani advance slowed down due to weather conditions. The bad weather in the area complicates the usage of combat drones and aviation.
Meanwhile, forces of the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced that they had carried out ‘powerful’ retaliation strikes on territory of Azerbaijan. Armenian sources insist that after the strikes, several hundred thousand residents of different cities of Azerbaijan have been fleeing in panic to Baku. The Armenian military claimed that Azerbaijan paid a heavy price for the recent gains. According to it, Armenian forces inflicted to the ‘enemy’ 3154 casualties and destroyed 368 armoured vehicles, 4 rocket launchers, 124 UAVs, 17 military planes and 14 helicopters. The Armenian side emphasizes that Azerbaijani forces have been extensively bombing civilian targets, including the largest Karabakh city, Stepanakert. Azerbaijan denounces these claims as blatant propaganda.
The ongoing Azerbaijani advance is not only supported by Turkey and involves Turkish military specialists, special forces and military equipment, but also became another case of the employment of Turkish-backed Syrian militants.
On October 5, Russia’s state-run news agency RIA reported citing its own sources that at least 93 Turkish-backed militants had been killed since the start of the war on September 27. The report added that at least 450 more militants were deployed to the combat zone last weekend. This was reportedly the third batch of Syrian militants deployed to the area.
The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc has been taking an upper hand in the battle against Armenian forces. The decisive role belongs to the air dominance and the numerical superiority of the Azerbaijani side. The only current advantage of Armenian forces is the low quality of Azerbaijani infantry and Turkish-backed Syrian militants involved in the ground advance as well as the low planning and management skills of the ground phase of the Azerbaijani operation.
Azerbaijani infantry and motorized units marching towards fortified positions of Armenians become an easy target for counter-attacks, artillery and missile strikes. This reminds one of the approaches employed by Turkey in Syria and Libya, when Ankara was sending waves of cannon fodder (consisting of members of various militant groups) to capture positions of the ‘enemy’, while Turkish special forces, artillery and air power were doing the main job.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of Armenia are not employing all the variety of means and measures that they have to fight back the advancing Azerbaijani military. Despite the loud propaganda about the Armenian key role in resisting to the ‘terror alliance’ of Turkey and Azerbaijan, the Pashinyan government has no political will to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and go for a full-scale war to defend Armenian population there.
Thus, the participation of the official Armenian military in supporting forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (as it remains a de-facto independent state with its own military forces) are limited as of now. This raises reasonable questions regarding the real goals of the Pashinyan government. Experts say that in fact what it aims is to achieve are the goals of his government’s foreign patrons in the Washington establishment thus losing Karabakh and using this as a pretext to break its remaining ties with Russia and push the country towards its integration with NATO.
On October 5, Pashinyan publicly admitted that the situation on the frontline is “complicated” and called on servicemen demobilized a year ago to rejoin the Armed Forces. The prime minister said that he was calling them not to a simple service, but to the battle “between life and death”. Pashinyan also declared that he is confident in Armenian victory.
Nonetheless, the mobilization of reservists showcases that the real situation is much more complicated than everyone wants to admit. Moreover, just fresh troops, without modern weapons, experienced commanders and instructors, will not be able to turn the tide of the conflict. In the worst case scenario, this may just increase casualties on the Armenian side.