"...The Syrian army is Bashar al-Assad's main prop .....At some point it will break, disintegrate, or withdraw to the Alawite heartland in order to preserve remnants of the regime. Alternatively, some units may move against the regime in order to save themselves. To increase the pressure and accelerate the process, the international community should...:
The army faces four major stressors as the war intensifies:
Growing opposition capabilities. Syria's armed opposition forces are becoming more formidable.....
Geography. Syria is a large country with complex urban and rural terrain. In some places, lines of communication (LOCs) are long, restricted, and vulnerable to attack. For example, Damascus is around 190 miles from Aleppo, and Homs is around 225 miles from Deir al-Zour. Regime forces moving north from Damascus or east from Homs face long road marches, and LOCs are vulnerable even when distances between key points are shorter, as evidenced by the many destroyed vehicles seen along the road system. In addition, the government cannot consistently control the entire country. If regime forces are not present or nearby, FSA elements can move relatively freely in both rural and urban areas. Indeed, this is a "360 degree" war -- fighting occurs across the length and breadth of the country, and the regime must defend everywhere.
Tempo of operations. The regime has stepped up operations since mid-May, and armed opposition elements are increasing their activities as well. The sustained nature and growing intensity of the fighting have placed greater demands on regime forces. In the past several weeks, the army has had to send brigade-size or larger armored reinforcements to Aleppo and Deir al-Zour, where local forces have been unable to suppress growing resistance. Moreover, a major regime operation appears imminent in Aleppo.
Attrition. The army is facing increased attrition in men and equipment due to combat action, defections, and desertions. According to SOHR (here we go..) and Syrian government reporting, regime forces suffered some twenty to twenty-five personnel killed per day in June, with probably another eighty or so wounded. The Alawite-led army also suffers from what can be called "loyalty casualties," that is, Sunni soldiers it cannot trust. Some of these personnel are disarmed or detained, while others continue to undermine the army from within...........
The army's fate hinges on several questions. First, can it win using the strategy it has employed thus far, which focuses on wearing down the opposition? After a year of combat, that seems unlikely. The armed opposition is in fact growing in numbers, scope of action, sophistication, and intensity of operations.
Second, can the army adapt by finding new ways to use its resources? Here too, its ability seems limited. This is partially a function of the regime's approach to the conflict as a whole, which rules out a meaningful counterinsurgency strategy -- no "hearts and mind" campaign would stand a chance of separating the majority Sunni population from the FSA. Another reason lies in the nature of the army itself. With effective command in the hands of loyalist generals and regime thugs, there is not much prospect for serious analysis of the challenges and implementation of realistic solutions. Operations and tactics appear stale and unimaginative, and many actions are poorly executed. The army wins by mass and firepower, not by adroitness.
Nevertheless, some factors are still working to maintain military cohesion. Both the army and the regime retain the loyalty of Alawite personnel, very few of whom are known to have defected. Loyalty to the regime is a factor among soldiers of other persuasions as well, whether based on personal commitment or benefits in the form of position, privileges, or pay. Others fear the consequences of regime change or desertion and are therefore more motivated to remain united. In addition, because the war is not yet definitively lost, many soldiers -- especially those with a stake in the regime -- may still believe Assad will win.....
Moreover, even amid increasing pressures, the army has not yet used its full capacity for military violence. Although it has routinely employed field artillery against civilian and military targets, it could use such weapons much more widely and intensely. No place in Syria has witnessed the kind of artillery bombardment that the army is capable of inflicting. Specifically, the regime has not employed its heaviest artillery, including 180-millimeter guns and artillery rockets ranging from 220 to 333 millimeters. It could also decide to commit its fixed-wing combat air forces -- the regime has 275 aircraft designed for a ground attack or strike role, plus others that could be outfitted for such purposes......
OUTLOOKSupportive factors and escalatory capabilities aside, the corrosive processes at work on the Syrian military are accumulating and accelerating. If the army cannot address these challenges, it will likely collapse, though precisely when is difficult to determine. The end could come in a rush or, more likely, through gradual disintegration.
Improving the FSA's planning, intelligence, combat, and command-and-control capabilities would presumably speed this process even further."
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:54 AM