Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The End of the Beginning

However ill-armed Syria's rebels are, they are out-fighting the Syrian security forces. Never during the Iraq or Afghan wars have our enemies ever overrun or besieged a major base. Shoot, even small outposts have never been overrun despite some very scary attacks in Afghanistan. Yet in Syria, the rebels just overran a regiment's base.

The Syrian army just isn't good enough or large enough to win the war. The Syrian regime is already seeing territory lost to the rebels. I've noted the heavy casualties the Syrian army has suffered in contrast to our fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I've noted the poor sortie rate of the Syrian air force. These are indications that the Syrian war effort is inadequate and that their troops just aren't up to the fight.

And now the Syrian rebels have actually captured a Syrian army base:

After a nearly two-month siege, Syrian rebels overwhelmed a large military base in the north of the country and made off with tanks, armored vehicles and truckloads of munitions that rebel leaders say will give them a boost in the fight against President Bashar Assad's army.

The rebel capture of the base of the Syrian army's 46th Regiment is a sharp blow to the government's efforts to roll back rebels gains and shows a rising level of organization among opposition forces.

The rebels captured a small number of heavy equipment and a good amount of ammunition.

Granted, it is unclear how many troops defended the base after the 50-day siege. Did the troops desert, retreat, or fight hard to defend the base?

Had the Syrian army largely abandoned the base but left a token force to hold as long as possible?

But since this is near Aleppo, why would the government have abandoned an army base likely important to supporting operations in the city that Assad is bizarrely (because I think capturing or holding it is biting off too much) fighting to control?

It's one thing to lose land out in the east that will have no real effect on the fight in the west. But this is a loss in the main theater. Whether Assad lost the base in a tough fight or deliberately abandoned it, the morale effect on his troops won't be good and the morale effect on the rebels will be quite good.

I won't say this is the beginning of the end. But it could well be the end of the beginning. Rebels victories could come at a faster clip and be more apparent to observers.

UPDATE: As poorly armed as they are, the rebels are doing a credible job of constraining the Syrian army and claim the gains will allow them to win Aleppo:

After months of fighting, Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo say that in the past week they’ve captured several critical areas from government forces that may soon give them the upper hand in northern Syria. The new ground will allow opposition groups to strain or potentially cut off supplies to government troops fighting in Aleppo Province.

It was foolish for Assad to fight for Aleppo. His army is bleeding to death for this objective.

UPDATE: The air defense assets of the rebel liberated zone are on order from NATO:

"Ambassadors will have an initial informal discussion on the Turkish request today," a NATO official said. Turkey said the NATO ambassadors would meet shortly, while the head of NATO said the alliance would discuss the request "without delay".

The NATO secretary general also said the Patriot deployment was about stopping mortar fire from going into Turkey and not to create a no-fly zone.

Patriot anti-aircraft missiles do not have the capability to shoot down mortar rounds.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.