Assad admits losses

In a rare acknowledgment, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday that his forces have lost some territory to rebels because of “manpower” problems. The embattled leader made the admission during a speech in the capital, Damascus, his first public address since a recent string of rebel advances. Assad also said that his forces had to abandon parts of the country to protect other fronts. “A shortage of manpower exists,” he said. The remarks, which were televised, came a day after his government issued a general amnesty for military deserters and draft dodgers. Syrians have been evading compulsory military service in huge numbers, depriving the military of crucial ranks amid a civil war that has killed more than 230,000 people and displaced millions.

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