Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told his troops on Wednesday they were close to winning the country's seven-year war after inflicting a succession of defeats on rebels.
Early last year, government forces held just 17 percent of national territory but a series of blistering offensives has since forced the rebels out of many of their strongholds, putting Assad's government back in control of nearly two-thirds of the country.
"Our date with victory is near," Assad wrote in an open letter to the rank and file.
"They (the rebels) were ultimately forced to leave -- humiliated, rolled back, their tails between their legs -- after you gave them a taste of bitter defeat."
Much of the territory was recaptured without any ground fighting as the rebels reluctantly agreed to leave their bombed out enclaves in Russian-protected convoys.
The army has been bolstered in its offenisves by Russian air strikes, Iranian military advisers and militiamen from Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Government troops are now moppinging up the remaining rebel pockets in the south, and last week Assad promised a similar offensive against the rebels' last major stronghold -- Idlib province in the northwest.
Source: National News Agency