The Free Syrian Army (Arabic: الجيش السوري الحر, translit. al-Jaysh as-Sūrī al-Ḥurr; abbreviated FSA) is a loose faction in the Syrian Civil War founded on 29 July 2011 by officers of the Syrian Armed Forces who said their goal was to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad. A formal organisation at its founding, its structure gradually dissipated by late 2012, and the FSA identity has since been used arbitrarily by various opposition groups.
In late 2011, it was considered the main Syrian military defectors group. It had success against vastly better armed government forces. From July 2012 onward, ill-discipline, infighting and lack of funding by Western countries weakened the FSA, while Islamist groups became dominant within the armed opposition.
The Free Syrian Army aims to be "the military wing of the Syrian people's opposition to the regime", and it aims to bring down the government by armed operations, encouraging army defections and by carrying out armed action. As the Syrian Army is highly organized and well-armed, the Free Syrian Army has adopted guerrilla-style tactics in the countryside and cities. The FSA's military strategy is focused on a dispersed countrywide guerrilla campaign with a tactical focus on armed action in the capital of Damascus. The campaign was not meant to hold territory, but rather, to spread government forces and their logistics chains thin in battles for urban centers, to cause attrition in the security forces, to degrade morale and to destabilize Damascus, the center of government.
After the Turkish military intervention in Syria in 2016, an informal group of Turkish-backed Arabs and Turkmen was established under the name "Free Syrian Army", with on-ground support of an organised military backed by Turkish and British airpower. The group closely cooperate with Turkish troops in Syria.