Last Updated: Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:53 am (KSA) 07:53 am (GMT)

Aerial capabilities keeping Syrian army one step ahead: FSA commander

A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires a rocket during an air strike in the village of Tel Rifaat, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, on August 9, 2012. (Reuters)
A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires a rocket during an air strike in the village of Tel Rifaat, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, on August 9, 2012. (Reuters)

The “last strength” keeping the Syrian regime afloat is its aerial superiority, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief told AFP news agency on Sunday, adding that Syria’s vast territory is increasingly outside the control of the regular military.

“If we had anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, we could quickly gain the advantage,” Colonel Ahmed Abdel Wahab,) said, speaking in the village of Atma near the Syrian border with Turkey.

The opposition fighter claims that he commands a brigade of 850 men in the FSA, the country’s main armed opposition force.

“With or without outside help, the fall of the regime is a question of months, not years,” said

“But if foreign countries don’t give us these [anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles], we will still win. It will take longer, that’s all.

“We control most of the country. In most regions, the soldiers are prisoners of their barracks. They go out very little and we can move freely everywhere, except Damascus.”

“As long as we avoid the main roads, we can move freely,” he added.

The comments followed a meeting between U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi on the crisis a day earlier.

Wahab, a colonel in the regular army only nine months ago, said his defection was driven by “the magnitude of the crimes of the regime, which is killing its own people.”

He said he commands four katibas (battalions) which make up the “Nasser Salaheddine” brigade in Syria’s second city of Aleppo and the region.

Wahab said he attends daily meetings with FSA leaders in the northern metropolis, where orders are given to him and other battalion commanders.

But he added that he has remained in contact with officers who are still in the regular army.

“Their morale is very bad,” he said.

“If the Sunni soldiers don’t desert, it’s only because they fear for their families, who are being held hostage. I was able to find a safe place for mine before leaving the army.”

Nearly 80 percent of towns and villages along the Turkish border are outside the control of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, in a statement released late Saturday after Ban and Brahimi met, the United Nations said the two men focused on how to address what they called “the appalling levels of violence in Syria.”

They also examined ways to progress towards an inclusive political solution that will meet the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.

“They agreed that the worsening crisis in Syria represents a steadily increasing threat to regional peace and security,” the statement said.

Ban and Brahimi also discussed the importance of the presence of world leaders at the United Nations in the coming days as an opportunity to encourage increased support for addressing the grave humanitarian crisis in Syria, the United Nations said.

The meeting came as Syrian opposition fighters moved their command base from Turkey to “liberated areas” inside Syria.

Meanwhile, government troops and opposition fighters battled for control of a corridor near the border and in Aleppo city.

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