Stalemate in Syria? Army short on loyalists, rebels short on guns
The regime of Bashar al-Assad appears to be favoring long-range weapons out of fear that soldiers close to the front lines will defect.
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When he defected about four months ago, after months of trying unsuccessfully, he became one of only three others from his unit to join the opposition. Today he says there are only 11 left on the police force from his old unit. The rest have defected.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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“The remaining police have been moved to a military base where they are on lockdown,” he says. He still speaks with some of them by phone and says that defection is not an option for his colleagues who remained unless the FSA liberates their base.
Intimate front lines
In many areas of Aleppo, the front lines are so close that FSA fighters and government forces can speak each other through walls or by shouting. In a few areas, FSA soldiers say that government troops have told them they want to defect but the ways out are guarded by snipers who are known to shoot anyone caught trying to escape.
“All of the soldiers in the Assad Army are really broken and their souls are crushed. Even when they’re fighting, they’re not fighting as good as they can. Some have families who are calling them and asking them to defect,” says Bassam Humidy, who defected to the FSA six months ago and is now recovering after being shot in the leg during battle.
Prior to defecting, Mr. Humidy served with a special forces unit in Homs. He says that those deemed most likely to defect were kept inside the city to man checkpoints in areas firmly under regime control where no fighting was taking place.
For the most part, however, those still fighting on the front lines of Aleppo for the Syrian government tend to be hardened loyalists more likely to trade insults than talk of defection, say most FSA fighters. Those most likely to defect remain far behind the front lines.
Despite the Assad regime's reported struggle to manage its defection concerns, opposition forces have struggled to capitalize on it, largely due to weapons shortages. The group lacks the equipment and supplies required to launch a major ground offensive and break the stalemate.
“There is not enough weapons and bullets. If we had enough weapons we could finish the war in just two weeks,” says Mahmoud Nadoum, who commands an FSA unit in Aleppo. With a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the problem, he adds, “There is not enough bullets for our AK-47s. We punish a soldier if he's not killing a soldier every time he shoots."