DAMASCUS, Syria, July 26 (UPI) -- Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, has acknowledged that his army is strained and has been forced to give up certain areas after four years of civil war.
The comments came during a televised speech to dignitaries in Damascus.
"Sometimes, in some circumstances, we are forced to give up areas to move those forces to the areas that we want to hold onto," the BBC quoted Assad as saying. "We must define the important regions that the armed forces hold onto so it doesn't allow the collapse of the rest of the areas."
One day prior, Assad reportedly announced amnesty for Syria's estimated 70,000 draft-dodgers and deserters. At least 230,000 people have died since Syria's civil war began in March 2011, and Assad's once-300,000-strong military force has been cut in half by desertions and casualties. At least 80,000 soldiers and pro-government militiamen have been killed.
Syrian government forces have faced a series of reversals over the past months. In May, Islamic State militants seized from government troops the ancient ruins of Palmyra, next to the city of Tadmur in central Syria's Homs province. The ruins, located near gas fields and a major airbase, lie on the road between Deir al-Zour, the city of Homs and Syria's capital, Damascus -- the main stronghold of Assad's forces.
In April, an alliance of Islamic factions, including al-Qaida's Nusra Front, captured Jisr al-Shughour, the Syrian military's last major stronghold in Idlib province. The town had been under Syrian government control since the beginning of the war. Idlib city had fallen to the rebels in March.
The government's loss of Idlib province has left open Syria's western Latakia province, home to the country's minority Alawite community to which Assad belongs.
Despite his forces being pushed into shrinking territories in Syria's southwest, Assad said the "word 'defeat' does not exist in the Syrian army's dictionary."
"We will resist and we will win," the BBC quoted him as saying.