Interesting Perspective on FSA Momentum

Whole story here.

“As for the “momentum” question, one of the greatest shibboleths of the last three months has been assessments that put the rebels on the losing side of this war. No one seemed to understand why Assad would gas them in Eastern Ghouta because no one seemed to even realize that the rebels had so firmly entrenched themselves in Eastern Ghouta, withstanding gunships, artillery, rockets and even prior releases of nerve toxins. In a very well done piece for Der Spiegel, Christoph Reuter and Holger Stark debunk this conventional wisdom by showing that, apart from the fall of Qusayr and Homs (strategic necessaries for the regime, but not the opposition), Assad’s forces have been suffering several debilitating losses. Khan al-Assal in the Aleppo, the sight of an early chemical weapons attack, fell in July as did Minnagh airbase. Last month, rebels took Khan Assir, the last transit corridor for the regime’s remaining troops in Aleppo who are now completely choked off. And in Rif Dimashq, Reuter and Stark write, not even the August 21 sarin attack enabled the Fourth Division to retake a single neighborhood, and it sure did try: “Instead, the division lost at least seven tanks in the Damascus neighborhood of Harasta alone. A rebel video provides an insight into the lack of personnel among the elite division: Two crew members flee a burning tank — but they are wearing no uniforms, no helmets and no radio gear. Shabiha militia members have apparently been forced to fill the gaps in the ranks of the army.”

This shows yet again another fatal weakness in Assad’s campaign: not only is he running out of viable regular soldiers — the bulk of whom he’s never trusted, and many of whom have either been killed by rebels, confined to barracks, or shot while trying to desert or defect — but he is relying more and more on guerrilla militias to do his fighting for him. Not all of these are acting directly on orders from Damascus High Command. The Syrian Arab Army, in other words, is losing its command and control capability and becoming more and more like… the Free Syrian Army.

If for no other reason, then, now would be an excellent time for Washington to try and turn the latter into an alternative military. Who knows? It just might come in handy someday.”


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