Syrian Armed Forces Desertion Said to Surge to 60,000

Pictured left - About 20,000 Syrian soldiers have deserted from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in less than a month, according to Turkish intelligence reports cited by a Foreign Ministry official. Photographer: -/AFP/Getty Images

Desertions by members of Syria’s armed forces have swollen to about 60,000 as growing numbers of troops refuse to join the crackdown on protests by President Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry official.

About 20,000 service personnel have left in less than a month, said the official, who cited Turkish intelligence reports and spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with government rules. The desertions are in addition to 40,000 military personnel who left before Feb. 20, the official said. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal yesterday said a seventh Syrian general has defected and is now in Turkey.

Syria’s armed forces have 295,000 active personnel, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 2012 Military Balance. They have been at the forefront of Assad’s bid to stamp out the yearlong uprising, which this month resulted in the seizure of the rebel-held strongholds of Idlib and Homs. Some of the soldiers are joining the opposition Free Syrian Army, whose commanders reside in Turkish refugee camps....

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