It’s been 16 days since the start of Karabakh War II.
- 524 Armenian dead
- As mentioned, the Azeris are keeping their losses under wraps, but 619 have been ID’ed from social media.
Since social media analysis isn’t going to catch all the Azeri losses, we can conclude that the Azeri losses are twice as high as the Armenian ones. Much better than the 1:4 or 1:5 ratio during the first war.
Although the number of Syrian jihadists isn’t that high, they did at the start constitute 40% of frontline troops and probably accounted for half of all losses (they are more politically disposable than Azeri conscripts). However, they must be decimated by now (in the literal sense), even assuming there were 5,000 of them i.e. one of the higher numbers. Turkey needs to ferry in more – perhaps from Libya, now that Haftar has been thrown back to Sirte – or almost all the losses will now be falling on the Azeris. On the surface, the Azeris can handle higher casualties, since their population is three times as big and they have four times as many young men; their authoritarian political system also allows them to downplay casualties. OTOH, the Armenians get a morale boost from defending their own lands.
This is a full-fledged war. According to commenter Annatar’s and my estimates, the Armenians are currently losing as many men as a percentage of their population per unit time as the British did during WW1. (Indeed, in just a bit more than 2 weeks, the Armenians have already lost 10% as many soldiers as they did during the first war, when they lost 6,000 over two years of intense fighting). And if we account for higher survivability due to better medical care, the casualty rate may well actually be higher in Karabakh relative to the death rate. So as we see, in an intense combined arms war between two “peer” countries, casualty rates have not declined significantly relative to the world wars of yore. Incidentally, this means that “significant” men – at least by the standards of those countries – are also dying, especially on the Armenian side (since the Azeri population is 3x bigger). For instance, the patriotic singer Kevork Hadjian, one of whose music videos is linked to at the top of this post.
This is an important observation that goes against the conventional wisdom but will certainly be of relevance to potential Great Power conventional wars this century.
The Azeris are making slow, grinding advances, capturing around 325 sq km of territory or 2.8% of Artsakh over the past two weeks (that’s 20 sq km per day). At least on paper, they have greater combat power than the Armenians, by a factor of around 3 according to my CMP index. But as also noted before, the Armenians are not just on the defense, but fighting in mountainous positions that limits the possibilities of armor and forces the Azeris into infantry-heavy attacks. The Azeris are also less competent soldiers than the Armenians and they don’t have the equivalent of elite German alpine divisions (commenter Annatar notes the history of the German 5th Mountain division, which scaled a 2,100 m snowy pass and broke the Greek defence lines in 3 day).
There was, on paper, agreement to a Russian-brokered ceasefire, but it never went into effect. The Azeris show no interest in respecting it. Why should they when they are advancing. As of today, they seem to be at the verge of taking Hadrut.
I don’t think there’s much point in predicting the ultimate outcome of the war since it is too dependent on contingent factors. Outright Russian intervention – or Turkish, for that matter – will seal the deal for their respective proteges. Azeri drone attrition has been high and they have tapered down their use over the past week, obviously they will need resupply from Turkey – especially now that they have seized most of the less easily defended plains and will now have to pass through winding mountain valleys. Fresh jihadist meat will also be of use since as per above it keeps politically sensitive Azeri casualties down (Syria? Libya? Afghanistan?). Though procuring it will not be entirely trivial, after all Azerbaijan is a secular Shi’ite state, and even Afghans might balk at being sent into a meat grinder – even if the $1,500 salaries the Turks offer them is insanely high by Afghan standards. Of course Armenia is also suffering a great deal of attrition, so their continuation of this high-intensity war is likewise conditional on Russia supplying them and Iran keeping those supply routes open. So it’s really too close to call IMO.