Assad regime struggles to find new military recruits

Syria’s army is struggling to find fresh recruits as it continues to suffer a series of defeats at the hands of insurgents

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Syria’s army is struggling to find fresh recruits as it continues to suffer a series of defeats at the hands of insurgents, raising questions about the stability of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and in turn forcing the government to become increasingly reliant on Syrian and foreign militias, U.S. daily the New York Times has revealed.

According to members of the Syrian military some of its officers have become angered as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, expands its influence, leading, and in some cases even directing, the fight in many parts of the war torn country, the report added.

A senior United States official. On the condition of anonymity told the newspaper: “The trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse,” but cautioned that things had not yet reached “boiling point.”

Increasingly government forces are crumbling, or troops have fled, as attempts to stop the push by a newly cohesive insurgent coalition - made up largely of Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front - fail and it reaches closer to Assad’s coastal strongholds.

The Syrian regime’s army is dwindling in number, it is now spread thin and resembles something of a disjointed insurgency rather than a state run military.

Four years ago it boasted 250,000 soldiers – but now, through casualties and desertions, there are 125,000 regulars and a similar number of pro-government militia members, including Iranian-trained Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghan Hazaras, the report added, citing the U.S. source.

In the areas where Hezbollah have control, Syrian officers have to ask permission before they carry out any operations - a fact that displeases some of the old guard, the report added.

“Every area where there is Hezbollah, the command is in their hands,” the unnamed Syrian source told the newspaper. “You do something, you have to ask their permission.”

On the flipside there is also simple jealousy – the report added, citing a soldier referred to as Ali - with Hezbollah troops paid in dollars, while Syrian military receive their money in the less valuable local currency. The soldier said Hezbollah have new vehicles, meat and rice – while their Syrian counterparts made do with older, beaten up Russian trucks and stale bread.

As a result of the apparent demise of power, officials in cities such as Aleppo and Dara’a are already making contingency plans, preserving cash reserves, antiquities and evacuating the local populations.

As a result American officials are investigating ways of exploiting the tensions between Syrian military officers and Hezbollah commanders.

There is less eagerness among Syrian civilians to join the Assad cause. A long-serving soldier who had already lost two family members in battle, was quoted as saying: “If I have a kid, I won’t send him to the army.”

And now, said the Syrian source, many are beginning to question whether Assad can even protect them.

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