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Assad admits shortfall in Syrian army capacity

Fighting erupted in Syria in 2011 and has since claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians and displaced millions

Published: Updated:

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad described Sunday talks towards a political solution to the ongoing war in Syria as “hollow” and “meaningless.”

During a televised speech before local dignitaries in the Syrian capital, Damascus, the Syrian president also said that the army faced a shortfall in manpower and may have to give up positions in order to hold on to others of greater importance in its war with insurgents.

“The army is capable ... Everything is available, but there is a shortfall in human capacity," Assad said. He said groups fighting to topple him had received increased backing from their state sponsors.

"Every inch of Syria is precious," Assad added.

Assad's speech comes after his government announced a general amnesty for army deserters and draft dodgers Saturday. There are thousands of army deserters in and outside Syria, many of whom have gone on to fight with rebels seeking to topple Assad. The overstretched Syrian army suffers manpower shortages as young men flee the country to avoid compulsory military conscription.

Assad has issued similar amnesties for criminals, but has not released any of the thousands of political prisoners believed to be in Syria's prisons.

Assad said that his government did not want war "but when it was imposed on us, the Syrian Arab army repelled the terrorists everywhere." Assad refers to any rebel group fighting against his rule as terrorists.

The U.S. has begun training some moderate rebels who oppose Assad, but the civil war has seen Islamic extremist groups become the most effective on the ground. Those include the extremist ISIS group, which holds about a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq in its self-declared "caliphate."