Rebel Forces Planning 'Tremendous' Offensive in Eastern Syria

Former U.S. Central Command chief says getting involved militarily would be too tricky and expensive.

A Free Syrian Army fighter on a destroyed army tank in the town of Anadan on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria.

Rebel forces in Syria are planning an intense offensive in the eastern part of the civil war-torn nation over the next two weeks as they seek to put the final dagger in Bashar al-Assad's regime.

A senior opposition official tells U.S. News & World Report the Free Syrian Army and other rebel factions will place "a tremendous focus on the eastern part of Syria in the next 10 to 12 days."

Eastern Syria is the home of key cities like Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia, and the capital city of Damascus.

This planned offensive comes as sources and Syrian experts say the FSA and other opposition elements are better-suited than Assad's military to capture and hold urban areas. Assad's tank formations are not built to move around inside the tight cityscapes, but rebel forces are.

[Photo Gallery: Syrian Rebellion Gains Momentum.]

"The Free Syrian Army is weakening the regime," the senior rebel source says. "Since the United Nations is not really moving and there is no real political answer, the military solution will force more people to look for a political solution."

The U.N. General Assembly on Friday voted 133 to 12 that criticized Assad's regime for killing over 20,000 people in a year-old civil war. The body's Security Council has failed to pass stiff measures aimed at the Syrian regime, largely because Russia and China have blocked them.

While some media reports have described significant amounts of arms being supplied to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni regional powers, the opposition source said that's just not the case. "Zero, zilch, nada," the source says when asked to describe the quantity of weapons other nations have supplied. "It's really embarrassing for those nations. We've received nothing significant from any nation."

The United States largely has stayed out of the fighting. The Obama administration has for months said further militarizing the situation would only make things worse for the Syrian people. What's more, the White House continues to express concerns about just who makes up the opposition.

William Fallon, a retired U.S. admiral who was the top American military official in the Middle East, said of a U.S. military intervention there: "I don't think I'd sign up for that.

"For us to jump into this frying of the first questions I'd ask is: 'What is it you want me to do?'" Fallon told a Dartmouth College audience on Monday. "If it's to pacify the country...that's not something I'd want to do."

For Fallon, the reasons for remaining on the sidelines were learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We've discovered the cost of these things is too high. That's not our [modus operandi] historically," the former U.S. Central Command chief said. "This is something we're probably just going to have to help along and try to minimize the damage. But it's not something for us to jump in the middle of."

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter.

  • Photos: Best of the Olympics: Day 10
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy
  • Crumbling: Nearly 20 Senior Syrian Military Officers Defect Assad's Regime