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As the civil war in Syria nears the six-year mark, the mounting death toll and constantly shifting military landscape is making a mockery of the diplomatic track.By relying on some 110,000 foreign state and non-state actors to maintain a hold on the small portion of Syria that he still controls, Assad's regime is much like his military: a shadow of what it once was.Forces loyal to Assad were again pushed to the brink in July 2015, when opposition forces advanced on the regime's coastal strongholds, specifically the port city of Latakia. Two months later, opposition units from Douma and Ghouta were close to cutting off Assad's forces in Damascus from the north of the country, by controlling strategic hills and paralyzing the M5 motorway. By the end of 2016, five major coalitions with conflicting objectives had emerged: Assad's forces and their allies; Arab-led opposition forces; Kurdish-led opposition forces; Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, formerly the Nusra Front, which was the official arm of Al-Qaeda in Syria); and the so-called Daesh (ISIS).At the same time, five smaller armed organizations – the most important being the Hawks of the Levant, the Army of Islam-Idlib Sector, and the Levantine Front – joined the Ahrar to avoid being absorbed by HTS.
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