Developments on the battlefield
Twenty-two days into Karabakh war, there is still little verified information from the battlefield. In its attempt to reconstruct prior events and to assess the situation in the fighting zone online platform „War on the rocks” identified several stages of the ongoing war.
First three days were characteristic by an attempt of Azerbaijani troops to conduct a blitzkrieg by a ground assault with armoured formations while providing fire support with artillery, drones, and loitering munitions. Armenian forces, however, managed to halt enemy’s advance, inflicting casualties with anti-tank guided missiles and artillery. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, managed to start „attriting Armenian air defence systems, destroying 13 short-range surface-to-air systems (Osa-AKM and Strela-10)“.
As authors further reported, „from the end of the third day until the beginning of the sixth day, the parties mostly engaged in position warfare, with the largest counteroffensive on the Armenian side taking place on the fourth day“.
The operation seems to be „mostly unsuccessful due to massive damage caused by Azerbaijani combat aerial vehicles, loitering munitions, and drones further marking targets for artillery“. Armenian forces „were left largely unprotected by the old air defence systems that they had available and suffered considerable losses as a result. The loss of as much as probably total of 84 tanks thus far by Armenia, along with numerous multiple launch rocket systems and artillery systems, compared to a total of 13 to 15 air defence systems, suggests a fairly low availability of air defence relative to the size of the armoured force fielded,“ claimed authors.
The sixth day of war was marked by exhaustion on both sides and shelling of Stepanakert followed by Armenian rocket attacks on Azerbaijan’s second-largest city of Ganja. At the same time, the increasing pressure of Azerbaijani forces in the north started, leading to alleged capture of Mataghis.
In following days, the fighting has shifted to the southern rayons of Fuzuli and Jabrayil as battles in the mountainous north „proved to be costly“ for Baku. Although the given territory is relatively flat and unpopulated and Azerbaijani troops might briefly capture Jabrayil, their advance in this direction has also stalled.
„In general Baku had managed to capture approximately 2.8 per cent of the disputed territory. Azerbaijan appears to have the capacity to destroy Armenian ground forces from the air, largely thanks to its unmanned aviation, but at the end of the day, only ground forces can seize and hold terrain. Tactical successes have not yielded a notable operational or strategic victory, and Baku’s path towards achieving political objectives via the battlefield remains unclear,“ concluded authors.
As OC-media informed on October 15, the Armenian Ministry of Defence confirmed at least 604 causalities among military personnel. Although Azerbaijan does not release the number of deaths among their troops, Yerevan published on October 11 a list of 517 Azerbaijani soldiers whose deaths they say they were able to confirm by name.
As Neil Hauer stressed in his assessment of possible developments on the battleground for the Asia Times, the land shall be soon covered by snow, and offensive operations will „bog down“. „The Azerbaijan Armed Forces are thus on a clock. They have just a few weeks to advance as much as possible before weather conditions alone make further progress all but impossible,“ wrote Hauer.