Friday, October 24, 2014

Whistling Past the Graveyard

So the Syrian ground forces are thriving under the experience of their civil war? In Assad's wet dreams, I say.

Huh. Who knew the Syria army was in such good shape?

The army has shrunk by nearly half since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011 but experts say the remaining military force is now both more flexible and capable.

It has transformed itself from a traditional military built on the former Soviet model into an effective counterinsurgency force.

And with sustained military support from Russia and Iran, and the guerrilla warfare expertise of its ally, Lebanon's Hezbollah group, it has gradually regained ground.

Let's look at a few factors in this remarkable renaissance:

"Defections, desertions and attrition after three years of civil war saw Syria's total manpower decline from a high of 325,000 in 2011 to 295,000 in 2012 to an estimated 178,000 in 2013 and 2014," he told AFP.


Nearly 190,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, including some 40,000 soldiers and 27,000 pro-regime forces, as well as 55,000 rebel fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


Despite its losses, the army has avoided recruitment campaigns and relied on compulsory military service to replenish its ranks.

Men of between 18 and 50 have to serve for at least 18 months, and the term can be extended on orders from the military leadership.

So Syria's much better army is much smaller, has--along with the supporting militias--suffered tremendous losses (67,000 dead in three years, which must include Hezbollah and the Shia foreign legion adding a small part of the total), and churns their (surviving) soldiers with new conscripts.

These are the building blocks of a much better army?

Do recall that our volunteer Army (including mobilized reservists) strength of probably 600,000 (which grew during the war) suffered probably 3/4 of 4,500 dead (killed in action or other causes) fighting in Iraq in the nearly 8 years we were there. The Army was routinely judged (by others--not me) as being "broken" or in danger of breaking by the casualties and stress of long deployments.

Yet the Syrian ground forces are a model of adapting under the pressures of war to become a "more flexible and capable" force?

I think not. At 23,000 dead per year (we never lost more than a thousand total per year in Iraq), a Roman punishment decimation was easier on a Legion than this civil war has been on Syria's ground forces.

The question isn't this big wet kiss of an article to Assad of just how good has Assad's army gotten--it is how much can Syria's ground forces take before they break?

Although with Syria's air force now capable of 200 sorties in a day, I'll say that is a remarkable come back from years past when their air efforts seemed rather pathetic. You can thank Russia for that rebound.