A sketch of rebel units, leaders and organizations — in military parlance, the 'order of battle'.
To explore the armed opposition groups within Syria is to open a Pandora's box in which hundreds of militias, battalions and brigades operate. The relations between the different players are fluid, dynamic and oftentimes opaque. As such this map cannot be considered comprehensive, exhaustive and exact, but rather a snapshot revealing the main forces that, as of mid-October 2012, were driving the armed uprising in Syria.
The map also illustrates two diverging trends developing within the opposition. The more regular units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are loosely organized through regional councils, tend to be led by high-ranking military defectors, are rarely ideologically driven and are at least nominally connected to the leadership of Riad al-Assad and Mustapha al-Sheikh in Turkey (although internal leaders such as Qasem Sa'ad al-Din carry more weight on the ground). The funding for these outfits is primarily from state sponsors, most notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Meanwhile, a plethora of other fighting groups are emerging that tend to be led by civilians or low-ranking defectors, are more ideologically inclined and are patronized by wealthy Shiekhs from Gulf Cooperation Council states, the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamic institutions. As one FSA source told Executive, "Now any old Sheikh can buy a militia."
The regional military councils have had varying degrees of success in uniting FSA units and a multitude of other alliances are regularly being formed incorporating different fighting outfits (the major ones are detailed in this map). It is perhaps the diverse sources and chaotic distribution of funding that contributes most to the factionalism and disunity within the ranks of Syria's armed opposition.
The fragmented and somewhat haphazard nature of the rebel groups not only obstructs their advance but also hinders any negotiated settlement, and may sow sour seeds for what would follow if the incumbent regime were to fall.