Syrian military shows strain in a war it wasn't meant to fight

The Syrian military’s ability to fight rebels and hold territory has steadily eroded, forcing it to cede the job of running many checkpoints to paramilitary groups, give up a provincial city last week without much of a fight and even enlist the top state-appointed Muslim cleric as a recruiter. …

In recent days, the government has signaled a growing anxiety over its ability to refresh the depleted and exhausted ranks of soldiers, and has continued to consolidate its forces around the capital, Damascus. …

For President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the insurgency has overly taxed a military that was designed not for sustained asymmetrical combat, but to repel an Israeli invasion.

As the government wages a war that a pro-government newspaper suggested on Tuesday could go on “for years,” it continues to retreat from its initial approach of fighting the rebels wherever they popped up, focusing instead on protecting its strongholds. And in recent days it has placed new emphasis on mobilizing civilians to take up arms for what it paints as a battle for Syria’s existence against foreign-financed terrorists.