Last week, the Syrian Army retook the town of Salma. Located in northeastern Latakia, roughly 15 miles from the Turkish border, the city became a terrorist stronghold in 2012, a terrorist bastion in a province otherwise held by the Syrian government.
The city’s narrow alleyways and surrounding forests made Salma particularly difficult to recapture. While Russian jets accomplished their goals from the air, the Syrian government found it almost impossible to move in tanks, troops, or armored vehicles.
Last week’s success relied on new strategies.
"The way we fight has changed since the beginning of the war, and we have developed our offensive methods," said Hany, a 25-year soldier with the Syrian Army. "Nowadays, we use motorbikes for their speed and mobility."
The bikes offer a number of advantages. Maneuverability lets the driver adjust course more rapidly to avoid sniper fire, while the lightweight frame allows it to sail over mines intended for larger vehicles.
"My bike is harder to track and is too light to set off landmines," Hany said.
The tactic was inspired by the very militant groups that the Syrian government is fighting, but it’s proven so effective that motorbikes may become a permanent fixture of the Syrian Army.
"It was the use of more than 80 motorbikes in the last battle for the town that had the greatest impact in terms of winning in the final 72 hours," one field commander said. "The motorbikes allowed us to transfer the wounded, carry light ammunition and food and were used by fighters carrying machine guns and night vision binoculars.
"We don’t deny that we learned the tactic of using motorbikes from the militants," he added. "We’ve come up with an advanced course on street fighting and guerilla warfare, and fighting on motorbikes may become a tactic that regular armies come to rely on."
The Syrian Army first implemented the new tactic nine months ago.
"We were divided into groups,with each group assigned three motorbikes that were used to move food and ammunition and transport the wounded from areas that ambulances couldn’t access” said Haj, another Syrian soldier.
"It’s fun to ride in times of peace, and in times of war they are useful. Eventually they’ll become an essential piece of equipment, like a gun or ammunition."
While Salma has been liberated, civilians have not yet returned to the city. Still, the successful operations, in coordination with Russian airstrikes, has dealt a major blow to Syria’s militant groups.