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Syria's Assad admits his army suffering from manpower shortages

The speech comes a day after Assad’s government granted an amnesty for draft dodgers and army deserters
A handout image from the Syrian presidency shows Assad giving a speech in Damascus in May (AFP)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Sunday to win his country’s civil war even while admitting that his army was struggling due to a lack of manpower.

In a televised speech in Damascus, the embattled president attempted to justify why his forces had been beaten back in parts of Syria in recent months by a collection of rebel forces as well as the Islamic State group.

"It was necessary to specify critical areas for our armed forces to hang on to. Concern for our soldiers forces us to let go of some areas," he said.

"Every inch of Syria is precious," he added, amidst growing speculation that a future deal could see Syria carved up.

The speech comes a day after Assad’s government granted an amnesty for draft dodgers and army deserters, provided that they had not fought for any opposition forces.

Syria's army once had around 300,000 members, but it has been seriously depleted by four years of war. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, pro-government forces, both soldiers and militiamen including Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, make up around a third of the 220,000 people killed in Syria between 2011 and the start of 2015 when the UN released its last casualty estimates.

The casualty figures are now believed to be substantially higher, with this year proving one of the most brutal yet.


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