Joseph Holliday of the Institute for the Study of War writes, “The conflict in Syria is approaching a tipping point at which the insurgency will control more territory than the regime.” The rebel forces, he reports, number 40,000 men and they control their “own de facto safe zones around Homs city, in northern Hama, and in the Idlib countryside,” while the regime still holds “key urban centers in Damascus, Homs, and Idlib,” which were seized in offensives in February and March. The regime has so few loyal forces at its disposal that it will be hard put to mount a major offensive in the countryside while still retaining control of the urban areas.
That point is buttressed by this report from the field filed by Marine infantryman-turned-reporter Austin Tice, who has been embedded with the rebel forces. He writes:
“Weeks of observation of Syrian military operations while traveling with rebel forces leave the impression that the Syrian army is unfamiliar with modern military tactics. It rarely engages rebel forces directly and appears instead to rely on poorly aimed and random fire to intimidate its opponents. Helicopters observed in northern and central portions of the country fly at an altitude that prevents their effective tactical employment”.
It is not clear whether this is reflective of incompetence or dual loyalties among the government forces, but whatever the case, it indicates that the Syrian military is not as formidable as it appeared while slaughtering civilians in months past.
Max Boot is a leading military historian and foreign-policy analyst and The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National
Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
The above article was published in commentarymagazine.com on June 22nd, 2012 (9:50 a.m.).