The Free Syrian Army is a group of defected Syrian Armed Forces officers and soldiers, founded during the Syrian Civil War on 29 July 2011 by seven or eight defected Syrian officers. The group defined “all [Syrian] security forces attacking civilians” as their enemies, and said its goal was “to bring down the system” or “to bring this regime down”. By January 2016, the FSA consists of “about 27 larger factions, each comprised of an average of 1,000 fighters as well as some smaller units or localized militias”, with there being “thousands” of the latter kinds of brigades of various sizes.
On 23 September 2011, the Free Syrian Army merged with the Free Officers Movement , Ḥarakat aḑ-Ḑubbāṭ al-Aḥrār); Western observers like The Wall Street Journal considered the FSA since then the main military defectors group. 90% of the FSA consists of Sunni Muslims, but a small minority are (Shia) Alawites and some Druze fought in FSA units. Some FSA units are led by Druze. As for further ethnic minorities, a Palestinian rebel commander in the Yarmouk enclave in southern Damascus in 2012 considered his rebel brigade to be part of FSA.
The FSA coordinated with the Syrian National Council starting in December 2011, and supported the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces after the coalition’s November 2012 creation. Between July 2012 and July 2013, ill-discipline and infighting weakened FSA, while jihadist groups entered northern Syria and became more effective than FSA. In April 2013, the US promised $123 million aid to rebels, to be funneled through the then leader of the FSA, Salim Idriss. Since February 2014, Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir is the appointed Chief of Staff and leader of the FSA. A coalition of moderate Muslim rebel groups fighting under the Supreme Military Council of Syria, which includes the FSA, on 25 September 2014 allied with a predominantly Christian coalition called Syriac Military Council, to unite their fight against the Assad government and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS, IS).