Syria’s Assad Admits Army Suffering from Manpower Shortage

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad acknowledged the shrinking ranks of his regime's army in a rare public speech on Sunday, but insisted the force was still capable of beating rebel fighters.

Speaking in Damascus, Assad also said any "dialogue that is not based on the fight against terrorism would be meaningless."

Syria's army once had around 300,000 members, but has been roughly halved in size by deaths, defections and a rise in draft dodging, a fact that Assad acknowledged publicly on Sunday.

"There is a lack of human resources" in the army, he said, addressing representatives of economic organizations in a speech broadcast live on Syrian state television.

"But that doesn't mean we can talk about collapse," he insisted.

"We will resist… the armed forces are capable of defending the motherland."

Assad, whose opponents include ISIS jihadists, Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters and other rebel groups, also made reference to army withdrawals from parts of the country.

In recent months, regime forces have been pushed out of almost all of the northwestern province of Idlib, as well as losing the ancient city of Palmyra.  

"There were areas where we wanted to show our commitment," he said.

"But the army cannot be on every part of the territory."

"In some areas, residents have taken up weapons alongside the army and that has had a decisive impact on the fighting."

More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests before spiralling into a civil war after a regime crackdown.

AFP contributed to this report.


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