Assad acknowledged the shrinking ranks of his government’s army in a rare public speech. AFP PHOTO
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Syria's President Bashar Assad acknowledged the shrinking ranks of his government's army in a rare public speech Sunday, but insisted the force was still capable of beating rebel fighters. Speaking in Damascus, Assad also said any bid to end the conflict that was not based on fighting "terrorism" would be "meaningless". Syria's army once had around 300,000 members, but has been roughly halved in size by deaths, defections and a rise in draft dodging, a fact that Assad acknowledged publicly Sunday. The government has also regularly urged Syrians to perform their military service and Saturday Assad decreed a conditional amnesty for army deserters and draft dodgers.Experts say Assad's government has realized it cannot hold all of Syria and is concentrating on the areas it considers vital.The body is backed by much of the international community, which Assad's government accuses of supporting "terrorism" in Syria.
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