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Syria's army declared a victory against insurgents last week when it pushed back their advance toward pro-government towns in the center of the country.Shiite Iraqi militiamen who had been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces have been recalled to Iraq to fight ISIS, while the group has also opened new fronts against government forces in Syria.However more than three years into the conflict, Assad's allies warn against underestimating the strength of pro-government forces and their ability to endure with the help of powerful friends, notably Lebanon's Hezbollah.As Washington draws up plans to train more than 5,000 Syrian rebels as part of its strategy to fight ISIS, military experts say the Syrian army looks set to remain the strongest player in a war that has killed nearly 200,000 people.To defend key areas, the military has adapted, relying on units seen as the most loyal to Assad and mobilizing powerful Syrian militias to fight alongside regular army forces.This helped to prevent coups by the army, which drew conscripts from some of the Sunni communities that turned against Assad. While top members of the army defected at the start of the conflict, they did not take whole units with them.Assad has also become increasingly dependent on the National Defense Force, a grouping of loyalist Syrian militias under the umbrella of the army.
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