A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

BAAD - Free Syrian Army - 2012


Free Syrian Army

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is an armed opposition organization conducting operations in Syria against Bashar al-Asad’s Ba’athist regime.[1] The group was founded by Colonel Riad al-Asad, a former Syrian Air Force officer who defected in July 2011.[2] Initially, the FSA was formed to defend civilians in locations where protests against the Asad government was occurring and to promote additional defections from the Syrian armed forces.[3]

FSA’s command center was originally based out of Turkey in the southern Hatay province near the Syrian border while FSA field commanders conducted operations within Syria.[4] The Turkish government claimed they wanted to provide safety to the defecting military members.[5] After attempts at creating military councils and joint commands, the FSA was reorganized in a December 2012 gathering in Antalya, Turkey.[6] At this meeting, Brigadier General Salim Idriss was named the new Chief of Staff of the FSA, and the Supreme Joint Military Command (SMC) was created.[7] Fighters from Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have reportedly been active in fighting with the FSA, although the number of foreign fighters is difficult to determine.[8]

The FSA utilizes guerilla-style military tactics against Asad’s military forces. Specifically, they have targeted Asad’s command-and-control and logistics.[9] General Idriss remained the Chief of Staff of the FSA until February 2014 when the group named Brigadier General Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir as his replacement.[10] As a result of the removal of General Idriss, a split occurred in the Free Syrian Army. Some rebels remained loyal to General Idriss while others supported the SMC and General al-Bashir.[11] As of May 2014, many rebels have abandoned the Free Syrian Army, claiming they do not see victory in the future and citing a lack of discipline within the FSA.[12] The FSA has been accused of war crimes,[13] including the use of child soldiers (a somewhat widespread practice amongst Syria's armed opposition groups).[14] View full narrative

Quick Facts for 2012


134 (Total of 1998 through 2012)


Approximately 50,000

Territorial Control:
Controls Territory (1)

Funding through Drug Trafficking:

Sorry, but there are no organizational details available for this group at this time.


Primary Ideology

  • Ag = Anti-Globalization
  • An = Anarchist
  • En = Ethnic
  • Ev = Environmental
  • Le = Leftist
  • Re = Religious
  • Ri = Rightist
  • Se = Separatist
  • Su = Supremacist
  • Vi = Vigilante


  •  Ally
  •  Suspected Ally
  •  Rival
  •  Violence
  •  Mixed Relations


  •  Blue 0 - 1479 fatalities
  •  Green 1479 - 2958 fatalities
  •  Yellow 2958 - 4437 fatalities
  •  Orange 4437 - 5916 fatalities
  •  Red 5916 - 7396 fatalities

Lethality is calculated as the total number of fatalities from 1998-2012.


Icon sizes depict approximate relative sizes of the organizations.

  • Smallest 0 - 10 members
  •   11 - 100 members
  •   101 - 1000 members
  •   1001 - 10000 members
  • Largest > 10000 members

Other Notes

Icons with no color coding or ideology icon have no detailed data at this time, and are provided as relationship information only.