Under the headline “Assad’s strategy shift keeps rebels at gates of Damascus”, The Independent reported Sunday that “the Syrian regime forces may have retreated but it seems their tactic is to strengthen the areas that they believe they can hold.”
The report by the British daily’s reporter in Damascus Patrick Cockburn indicated that “a rebel assault on Damascus has failed to make serious gains in the Syrian capital,” adding that “diplomats have warned that “the struggle between the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and the opposition is now likely to drag on longer than had been expected.”
According to the paper, “the Syrian government has adopted a new strategy in recent weeks whereby it withdraws its troops from bases that are indefensible in order to concentrate them in Damascus and other cities it views as strategically crucial. This pull-back enabled the army to launch a successful counter offensive in the past week, relieving the military pressure on the capital and improving its negotiating position.”
In this context, The Independent reporter quoted an analyst in Damascus as saying that “the government says it made a strategic choice not to defend smaller outposts.”
“This means ceding much of the countryside to the rebels, particularly in the north and west of Syria, but by concentrating its forces in population centres the government should be able to hold out for longer against rebel attacks,” he added.
Furthermore, he quoted another diplomat as saying that “in private, Free Syrian Army commanders admit that their attacks in Damascus had not gone as planned and they suffered losses, but this does not mean that they will not try again.”