Drawn-Out Aleppo Fight Suggests Strains in Syria Army
Syrian army forces bombarding rebel foes in Aleppo may have sound reasons for delaying the expected next stage of their campaign to take Syria’s largest city — an infantry advance that would test the mettle of their front line troops.
But while President Bashar al-Assad’s forces command the skies and have an overwhelming advantage in armour, artillery and troops, faltering morale could be offseting the army’s superior firepower.
“I know these people, I worked with them. They are cowards, they have no heart,” rebel commander Abu Furat al-Garabolsy told Reuters outside Syria’s largest city.
That may be mostly wishful thinking, inspired by a steady trickle of defections from the army that has lifted rebel morale in recent weeks.
And Garabolsy acknowledged other factors may be at work - one reason for the delay in a ground push in Aleppo’s Salaheddine district, he said, may be that “they are trying to tire us out and to wear our ammunition out” with the campaign of shelling.
Pounding the city into ruins would provoke international outrage - Aleppo’s ancient citadel is a world heritage site - and could bring direct outside intervention a step closer.
Moreover, the close quarter combat that must follow any artillery barrage will be even tougher in a city where the clear streets that armour need to remain mobile are blocked by mounds of rubble.
But as the days go by without a major ground assault, doubts are gathering among residents in the Aleppo area as well as some analysts in the West that the army has sufficiently trained, motivated troops to accomplish the mission it has been set.