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      Syrian General Staff Suffering Brain Drain

      Generals continue to defect from Bashar al-Assad's army to join the rebels; two more left for Turkey as fighting erupted in Damascus.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 3/19/2012, 9:17 PM

      Syrian Army defecters
      Syrian Army defecters
      Reuters

      A Turkish official said Monday that two more generals have fled Syria and linked up with rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus.

      "The generals arrived Friday and nearly 200 other people, most of them women and children, have crossed over since yesterday", the official told AFP.

      The latest defections bring the total of generals who have deserted since the popular uprising against Assad's regime erupted over a year ago to nine.

      In addition, around 200 more Syrians crossed into Turkey on Sunday, bringing the total number of refugees in the country to 16,100. UN refugee officials say at least 230,000 Syrians have been displaced during the past year.

      The Syria Free Army consists of some 20,000 army defectors armed as light infantry. The group has staged numerous deadly ambushes and hit-and-run raids on Assad's forces.

      However, Assad recently launched a devastating counter-offensive on several rebel strongholds that underscored the logistical weakness of the group, which lacks funds and heavy arms.

      Assad's onslaught was accompanied by reports of war crimes in Syria, including the systematic rape, torture, and mass executions of civilians in towns abandoned by the rebels.

      In the wake of the heavy blow Assad's forces dealt to the SFA in recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has moved to step in and arm the rebels after Western nations refused to do so.

      Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has become the main haven for opposition groups and rebel fighters, but refuses to openly provide military assistance.

      The United Nations remains deadlocked over how to deal with Assad's crackdown, which UN Human Rights officials say has killed at least 8,000 civilians.

      The United States, its Western allies, and the Arab League have imposed sanctions on Damascus, but Russia and China have both blocked attempts for global action against Assad's regime.

      Russia has billions of dollars in annual trade – mostly in arms and oil contracts – tied to Assad's continued survival and has adamantly refused to stop arming Damascus.