In the discussion thread: Turkey's parliament authorises military action in Syria [View all]
Response to Bosonic (Reply #3)
Thu Oct 4, 2012, 08:55 AM
leveymg (31,805 posts)
6. Foreign fighters may now outnumber defected Syrian troops in the FSA
Last edited Thu Oct 4, 2012, 10:08 AM - Edit history (3)
There are no reliable numbers of ex-Syrian military defectors, because the source of most of the public estimates are from the FSA, itself, and its political auxilaries. When you look at the numbers provided during 2012, the claim is that several thousand Syrian soldiers have thusfar defected (not all deserters are in the field, many have simply returned home to areas outside gov't control or have fled abroad to Turkey or another surrounding state).
The FSA is said to total 40,000-60,000 but that is a top estimate and may not reflect the actual number of active strength fighters. This roughly matches the top estimates for the number of Syrian military deserters. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-15/syria-loses-20-000-troops-as-deserters-flee-turkey-says-1-.html The policy of opposition groups is to not provide overall estimates of defecting Syrian military, but to instead report small groups that defect with their officers as they enter Turkey. In addition, the ranks of the armed Syrian opposition includes armed groups without military training or organization. The size of rebel Syrian non-ex military combatants in the field varies over time, and most are local Sunni militias. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Syrian_Army
By comparison, the regular Syrian Army is a largely conscript force that numbers 220,000 with an active reserve of 280,000, with additional tens of thousands of in the Syrian Navy and Air Force. Elite Republican Guard units total about 100,000. Like most ranking government officials in Syria, officers are drawn largely from the ruling Alawite sect. There are some two to three million Syrian Alawite.
While there have been several dozen high-level defections, the Syrian military appears to still be largely intact, including the top commanders. According to a report in August in al-Arabiya, a Saudi-funded news agency: (1) http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/09/231222.html
But with the rebellion is now in its 17th month and the core leadership -- the family of President Bashar al-Assad and the top echelon of the military and security services -- remains intact. This is despite billions of dollars reportedly pledged by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to encourage high-level defections, according to a Gulf-based diplomat.
According to a Lebanese security official, there are about 1,200 brigadier generals in the Syrian army, and only about 40 have defected. In contrast, there are only about 100 senior-ranking generals, all of who remain loyal.
Foreign fighters in Libya have often been said to number "in the hundreds" but that is growing as are concerns about their influence on the opposition. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1209/20/ctw.01.html The latest estimate from a reliable source, Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, states, "They are realistically about 2,000-3,000 in number." http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/20/world/meast/syria-libya-fighter/index.html
Algerian UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, citing Syrian government sources, places that number considerably higher, at 5,000. http://www.islamicinvitationturkey.com/2012/09/25/brahimi-to-security-council-5000-foreign-fighters-operate-in-syria/
There are foreign combatant groups from Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Kosovo, Croats, with smaller detachments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other GCC states. The one thing they all have in common is that they are almost all Sunnis.
US officials, including Secretary of Defense Paneta, have stated that it would be a mistake, as in Iraq, to attempt to disarm the Syrian military and police or to allow its disintegration. Analysts believe this would lead to chaos in Syria, and risks that the most dangerous weapons, including chemical and biological arms, could fall into the hands of extremist groups and organized crime on the international black market. An estimated 15,000 MANPADS are still unaccounted for after the regime change in Libya.
Recent battles have reportedly depleted rebel Syrian force strength, and rebel casualties have numbered in the hundreds in some offensives. While the opposition is undoubtedly better funded and equipped, and is reportedly receiving some advanced weapons, such as MANPADS, the actual strength of the armed opposition may have been overestimated. See, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57522679/u.s-aims-to-rally-syrian-opposition-with-new-aid/?tag=scrollShell;housing-Home
(1) Wiki: The original investment in Al Arabiya was $300 million by the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), Lebanon's Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf states. Through MBC, Abdulaziz bin Fahd and his maternal uncle Waleed bin Ibrahim al Ibrahim own and have control over Al Arabiya.
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Foreign fighters may now outnumber defected Syrian troops in the FSA
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