The failure of the Free Syria Army

Loubna Mrie writes: Last year was disastrous for the original moderate, secular, democratic goals of the Syrian revolution.

As the Syrian civil war enters its fourth year, the revolution has shifted from a movement clamoring for social and political change to an all out sectarian conflict. In the process, it has become a proxy war pitting global and regional powers, frustrating diplomatic efforts to solve it.

Part of the blame for the war’s current messiness lies with the group that originally carried the banner of revolution – and citizens’ hope for a better Syria. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose coalition of moderate rebel brigades, has lost ground to both extremist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and more moderate Islamists. Increasingly, civilians are abandoning the FSA and embracing jihadist organizations, while FSA fighters are leaving to fight with other groups. The Free Syrian Army has found itself hamstrung by widespread corruption and an inability to provide basic public goods including humanitarian aid and law and order.

On all fronts, the organization is losing ground. Only a major overhaul can possibly save this endangered species. But before Syrians initiate any kind of overhaul – we need an analysis of what, exactly, went wrong with the FSA’s strategy. In other words, how did we get here? After conducting interviews and research in Syria for the past two years, I found that there are three factors that have lead to the FSA’s loss of credibility, which has, arguably, helped lead the war into its brutal stasis. [Continue reading…]

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