Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Pyrrhus Would Recognize This Assad Victory

Assad is not winning his war. He has too few people and too few soldiers to win if we properly support the rebels backed by the majority of Syria's people.

Strategypage has noted the casualties that have been endured in the Syria fighting that has only really raged for the last year and a half at a higher rate than the low-level toll that the early part of the crisis had:

The death toll for over two years of fighting is now at least 110,000. Most of the dead are rebel fighters and pro-rebel civilians. But it is believed that 27,000 soldiers and 17,000 pro-Assad militia have also died, along with over 21,000 rebel fighters.

So that's 45,000 civilians dead.

And the toll on Assad's small loyalist military and the newly created militias is just astounding, even if it includes Hezbollah and Shia Foreign Legion recruits flowing into Syria. Assad formed a 60,000-strong militia in the late spring with Iranian help, and already more than a quarter have died? Does that mean twice as many were wounded? Some of those wounded won't be returning to the fight. Sure, I imagine more militias have been recruited but loss rates like that can't be good for morale.

The Syrian military is in even worse shape, really. That's probably a quarter of the loyal military and explains why Assad needs Hezbollah and militias. Assad's military must have very few trained infantry left since they'd have endured the vast majority of the casualties.

And while militia members can probably go home, the army has to be in for the duration--or until they die or are crippled.

Further, note that at the cost of 44,000 loyalist troops and militia dead, the Assad military effort has killed 21,000 rebels--a less than 1:2 kill ratio.

Iraqi security force casualties in 8 years of fighting were about 10,000 with at least 50,000 civilian casualties in that time (UPDATE: The total Iraqi casualty toll was about 120,000--including security forces, rebels and civilians, I should add. I used the "at least 50,000" figure as documented civilian losses from that web site just for a broad comparison to Syria). I think the enemy suffered 17,000 casualties, or in that ball park (if memory serves me). I believe insurgent and terrorist casualties would have been part of the civilian toll. Our casualties were almost 4,500 with a few hundred more Coalition deaths.

Our troops were pretty good and in firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan had a 10:1 kill ratio (if memory serves me), but even our Iraqi and Afghan allies--if memory serves me--have managed to achieve a 2:1 kill ratio in battles against rebels. IEDs and mines reduced our overall kill ratios, of course.

But in Syria there seems to be far less IED use and far more direct fighting, which should make it easier for the Assad forces to inflict casualties and avoid their own. Yet this is not so.

A population base of 6 million Alawite and other minority supporters has already lost 44,000 troops. The rebel losses are from a population base of nearly four times that.

And in that time Assad has lost control of most of the territory of his country, seriously fighting for an arc in the west from Aleppo down to the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Anything Assad has out of that arc is on its own except for occasional air strikes, it seems.

In what world is Assad winning this war? He might survive this war if the rebels tire of fighting without American support which convinces them that the time and cost to achieve victory isn't worth it. But there is no reason Assad should survive this war if we treated Assad as an enemy.

Heck, if the war winds down in an exhausted stalemate and Assad's backers look around their shrunken realm in western Syria and count the cost, they might shoot the SOB just for the price of their victory.

UPDATE: If the Alawites keep bleeding the way they have, the burn rate will break their morale. Here's a high-ranking Alawite making a break for it:

Former Syrian Defence Minister General Ali Habib, a prominent member of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, has defected and is now in Turkey, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters on Wednesday.

If confirmed and not mere rumor, that would be the highest ranking defection yet.