Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"From a pure sustainment standpoint, the Syrian Army has been more impressive than anyone gave it credit for."

"...The military's still-robust fighting ability — apparently bolstered in Qusair by the presence of combatants from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group — has confounded predictions from experts and foreign capitals that the Syrian government's days were numbered.Some are recalibrating their forecasts of the regime's certain demise (smorgasbord) even as Russia and the United States try to organize an international conference meant to jump-start peace talks and create a transitional government in Syria.
In recent weeks, forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have scored significant victories in the south and north, while pushing back rebel forces who not long ago seemed poised to storm the capital. The fractured opposition complains that weapons and ammunition are becoming scarce and money is drying up.
Qusair had been a rebel bastion for more than a year, a way station for weapons and supplies destined for combatants in nearby Homs, a city long at the heart of the rebellion.
The government has thrown troops, air power and artillery against the rebel forces arrayed in Qusair, demonstrating its continued dominance in firepower. Assertions that the regime's armor and aircraft would wear down from steady action and a lack of spare parts do not appear to have been borne out.
"It forces us to really reconsider this thing that everyone has been taking for gospel for these two years now, that the regime's fall is inevitable," said Joseph Holliday, a fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank. "From a pure sustainment standpoint, they've been more impressive than anyone gave them credit for."
The fall of Qusair would be a severe blow for rebels in Homs and other nearby opposition-controlled cities, such as Rastan, and would solidify government control of the main highways between the capital and the Mediterranean coast, ...
"The weapons and aid to Homs are coming through us," said Muhammad Raed, a rebel reached viaSkype in Qusair. "So if Qusair falls, then Homs falls."...
Still, just a few months ago it seemed that rebels were poised to cut key routes across the country and isolate government forces in places such as the northern city of Aleppo, where the military has hung on through almost nine months of fighting. ..
In mid-April, however, the military broke a six-month rebel siege of a pair of military bases in the northern province of Idlib, reopening a key overland supply line to troops in Aleppo. That freed up the use of aircraft that had previously been resupplying the Aleppo garrison. The government has recorded a series of victories since then...
"The fact that Hezbollah has joined the fight has given the regime the flexibility to go on the offensive," said Holliday of the Institute for the Study of War. "It provides an extra bump in manpower." ..."

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