Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Wreckage of the Syrian Army

Assad's army is a fragile force and desperately trying to fill its depleted ranks:

When protests against the Assad regime began in 2011, the Syrian army numbered about 250,000. But tens of thousands of defections, desertions, and mass casualties over more than seven years of conflict have gutted the military. While its current size is unknown, one thing is clear: Assad is now going to great lengths to reconstitute his forces. The problem is that few Syrians want to fight for him.

And the army is depleted despite all its members being "in for the duration" with no rotation home. The PTSD must be pretty bad for those who have survived the massive loss of life in the small army since the civil war began.

The article doesn't mention casualty figures, but I believe the death toll is about 150,000 for the Syrian armed forces. Which makes it understandable why Assad needs Shia shock troops to spearhead the assaults. Iran's client terror group Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and the Iranian-paid Shia foreign legion are key to maintaining the offensive in addition to Russian mercenaries (who have lost 500 dead, I think I read on Strategypage).

Iran also pays for Syrian militias, but I don't know if they function as shock troops. They may be garrison forces. But they do compete with Assad's recruiting/conscription drives.

Yet despite the death toll and the problem the survivors no doubt have, Assad has kept an army in the field. A couple times during this long civil war that became a multi-war, I wondered how the army could still keep fighting.

Of course, it has never expanded to even the pre-civil war level. And not even all the forces Iran has paid for have made up that difference.

Assad is winning. And the battered survivors in his armed forces will start to fight even more cautiously, not wanting to be the last to die in the war. That won't affect the Shia foreign legion, but unless something dramatic happens, Assad will win this civil war within a shrunken realm. Will his troops keep fighting to expand the core Syria he is starting to dominate to reach the formal borders? Or will rebels revert to insurgency in areas Assad formally controls?

And within the core Syria that Assad's forces hold, will Assad or "army" warlords actually rule that territory?

UPDATE: Strategypage takes a tour of Russia in Syria, among other things.