Saturday, December 26, 2015

Retaking Ramadi From the Islamic State: The Battle for Iraq (Dispatch 11)

Начальник ГОУ ГШ ВС РФ Сергей Рудской подвел итоги действий рос.авиагруп...

Syrian Army Manpower Weakness Excerpted From Recent News

July speech by Assad on manpower weaknesses.

"In a striking admission, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria said on Sunday that the country’s army faced a manpower shortage and had ceded some areas to insurgents in order to hold onto other regions deemed more important.

Syrian Army is down from 300,000 to about 80,000 to 100,000.

"The strength of the regular Syrian army is estimated to be down from a pre-war figure of 300,000 to between 80,000 and 100,000. Fatigue, desertions and losses have taken a heavy toll, as has the sectarian nature of the conflict. That means once-loyal Alawites – the Assad family’s minority sect – are no longer ready to fight for Sunni areas but only to defend their own homes.

“Idlib fell very quickly because Syrian soldiers were simply not prepared to fight,” said one Syrian expert. “Ahrar al-Sham [one of the rebel groups] were surprised how quickly the regime defences crumbled.”

Low Pay Causing Moonlighting and Use of Local Militias

"...soldiers in the capital moonlight driving taxis, complaining of low wages eroded by steep price rises. Syrian officials often say that Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s local affiliate, are paid far better than their own forces. Scruffy militiamen in camouflage trousers and T-shirts man security checkpoints.

Young men fleeing for Europe often say they are prompted to leave by receiving their call-up papers or being ordered to report for reserve duty.

National Defense Force

"Another factor in the decline of the regular army is the creation of a 125,000-strong locally based National Defence Force, which has been trained and paid by the Iranians, who also favour the use of Shia militia fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Hezbollah…. "

"...minorities are flocking to the NDF to avoid recruitment into an army still comprised mostly of Sunnis. Most NDF fighters are Alawites, but many Christians and Druze have joined as well…. minorities are flocking to the NDF to avoid recruitment into an army still comprised mostly of Sunnis. Most NDF fighters are Alawites, but many Christians and Druze have joined as well…. For many fighters, the main attraction is fighting for their own home towns and the chance to accumulate extra wealth at a time when the country's economy is collapsing. Unlike soldiers, they say they are allowed and even encouraged to loot houses when attacking rebel-held areas. "I get 15,000 lira ($158) a month, and I am allowed to keep a percentage of the loot from any battle I fight in,..."

Amnesty offered in July but not trusted

Mr. Assad issued a general amnesty for Syrians who have avoided military duty or deserted the security forces — provided they have not joined the insurgency against him. He has issued amnesties in the past but has yet to release thousands of political prisoners, leaving many people mistrustful of this latest pledge.

Forced Conscription and Bribery

"...In a report released yesterday, the human rights organisation said that “since the beginning of November and up to 15 December, more than 1,217 young men have been arrested for conscription into the ranks of the regime forces; about half of them have official approval to defer military service.”
“Among those arrested, nearly 358 are university students. The majority of detention incidents took place in the province of Damascus as well as the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Homs, according to witnesses,” the report added.

According to the NGO, “early in November the regime authorities distributed lists of dozens of thousands of young men for conscription to fight with the army, local militias, or under the command of foreign militants and circulated them to recruitment centres in the provinces under its control.”

The report explained that the lists included “the names of young people aged 25 to 35 years old, including government employees and university students, even though [these individuals] had obtained formal approval to postpone their mandatory military service.” It added that “doctors and nurses over the age of 45 years old have [also] been informed to report to regime military field hospitals.”
“After being arrested, these young people are referred to the military police headquarters then to the frontline to fight against armed opposition factions.”

According to the report, the aim is to compensate the huge shortage of manpower in the government forces, especially after a significant portion of local militias defected to European countries to seek asylum in addition to trying to gain back land taken my militias after receiving strong aerial support from Russian forces after 30 September.

The Network added that a further reason for the recruitment drive is to solicit bribes and blackmail from youths who want to have their names deleted from these lists, thus representing a potential revenue stream for officers in the recruitment centres, Ministry of Defence and military police.

Pasted from <>

Changing Momentum and Conscription

One might wonder if the changing fortunes of war the Assad regime is experiencing on the battlefield with the intervention of the Russians might reverse the manpower concerns of the Syrian Army.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Military to Military - Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war - London Review of Books

Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’...

- bth: this is an excellent article/book review and worth studying in full.

The most unconventional weapon in Syria: Wheat - WaPo

Already, a third of the country’s wheat production lies outside the government’s control, according to officials from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. (Syrians who work in the agriculture sector believe that the number is probably higher.) The Islamic State holds the biggest chunk, including much of the country’s breadbasket, the prime wheat-producing lands that Syrians call the Jazira. It practices the same strategy in Iraq, where the FAO estimated last year that it controlled some 40 percent of all wheat production.
Wheat, like oil, is a fungible commodity. Disbursing it wins the loyalty — or at least the obedience — of civilians. But the Islamic State also sells Syria’s stocks to Iraq, to traders in Turkey and even back to the government, all at inflated prices, according to people closely involved with wheat and bread production. Other armed groups have been pursuing similar strategies. The result, as the World Food Program and the FAO estimated in July, is that almost 10 million Syrians — almost half of the country’s prewar population — are “food insecure,” meaning that they may go hungry on a day-to-day basis. Of those, almost 7 million need aid just to stay alive. And the black-market war economy that feeds them is controlled by combatants, who inflate prices — this year, they rose almost 90 percent — to profit from hunger and even starvation....
bth: this is an excellent article on wheat and Syria. Wheat like diesel is used to control the local populations.