The recent liberation of Palmyra (Tadmur) and Quraytayn has birthed new life into the exhausted Syrian Arab Army (SAA) units that are fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in the vast Syrian Desert. As a result of these uplifting military operations, the Syrian Arab Army is pushing east towards the Euphrates River for the first time since the advent of this violent conflict. However, the battle to liberate the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway will not be an easy victory for the government forces; in fact, the Syrian Arab Army is entering a new frontier, where it is ISIS that rules every inch of desert between Palmyra and Deir Ezzor City. One of the issues the Syrian Armed Forces ran into before ISIS captured Sukhanah and Palmyra in May of 2015 was the constant obstruction of the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway by the aforementioned terrorist group.
To reopen the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway would be great in theory; however, if the Syrian Armed Forces do not build a buffer-zone around this strategic roadway, they will quickly find themselves on the receiving end of an ISIS assault to cutoff their supply route to Deir Ezzor once again.
How is this possible? Well, the primary reason for this is due to ISIS’ large presence along the Tabaqa-Sukhanah Road, which flows into the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway; this is the same route the terrorist group currently uses to transport oil to the Al-Raqqa Governorate. So, if the Syrian Armed Forces commit themselves to liberating the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway, they will also have to push north towards the Al-Raqqa Governorate in order to ensure the safety of this roadway.
As we have seen in the past (Khanasser Highway), the Syrian Arab Army’s failure to build a proper buffer-zone around their vital supply routes will come back to haunt them and result in more setbacks that will give ISIS time to recuperate.