In an interview he gave to RT shortly before the Syrian army’s final victory in Aleppo,
Syrian President Assad made clear that securing the city and protecting it from further Jihadi attack by driving the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis from the countryside around Aleppo is now the Syrian army’s first priority
As to Aleppo. liberating the city is of course important, but before we talk about other areas, we need to fortify the city from the outside, in the sense of cleaning the areas surrounding it of terrorists. So far the areas in which the terrorists are ensconced are about a few square kilometres, but terrorists outside the city are still shelling it with rockets and mortars on a daily basis……So liberating Aleppo doesn’t end with liberating the city itself, for it needs to be secured on the outside.’
President Assad made clear that only once this is done will the Syrian army attack the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis elsewhere, though he made it very clear that the next objective is Idlib, which is Al-Qaeda’s main base in Syria
Afterwards, identifying which city comes next depends on which city contains the largest number of terrorists and which city provides other countries the opportunity to support them logistically. Currently, there are direct links between Aleppo and Idlib because of the presence of Jabhat Al-Nusra inside and on the outside of Aleppo and in Idlib’.
On the subject of Palmyra, President Assad made it clear that he considered ISIS’s recapture of the city to be an attempt to distract the Syrian military and to draw it away from Aleppo, which remains the key front in the war. He made it absolutely clear that the Syrian government and army would not be distracted in this way
That’s why this operation has two objectives: first, to undermine the importance of liberating the city of Aleppo because liberating it is very important for Syrians….Second, which might be the more important objective for them, is to distract the Syrian army and fragment its efforts in different directions so that the major force operating now in Aleppo would have to withdraw towards Palmyra…..This is war: you win somewhere and you lose somewhere else. But we should know that the main thrust now, and the priority, is the city of Aleppo.’
In this interview President Assad shows a clear grasp of strategy, and an ability to explain it. This goes far to explain why he has retained the loyalty of the Syrian state and army throughout the hard long years of war. It also explains why he looks set to outlast all the Western leaders who have called for his overthrow.