The Free Syrian Army has developed a rough “order of battle” that describes these rebel groups, their ideology and sources of funding. This report was shared last week with the State Department.
... rebel sources say there are several [ islamist ] major factions.
The biggest umbrella group is called the Jabhat al-Tahrir al-Souriya al-Islamiya. It has about 37,000 fighters, drawn from four main subgroups based in different parts of the country. These Saudi-backed groups are not hard-core Islamists but are more militant than the political coalition headed by Sheik Moaz al-Khatib, who last week claimed Syria’s seat in the Arab League.
The second-largest rebel coalition is more extreme and is dominated by hard-core Salafist Muslims. Its official name — Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Tahrir al-Souriya — is almost identical to that of the Saudi-backed group. Rebel sources count 11 different brigades from around the country that have merged to form this second coalition. Financing comes from wealthy Saudi, Kuwaiti and other Gulf Arab individuals. Rebel sources estimate about 13,000 Salafist fighters are gathered under this second umbrella.
A third rebel group, known as Ahfad al-Rasoul, is funded by Qatar. It has perhaps 15,000 fighters.
The most dangerous group in the mix is the Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq. By one rebel estimate, it has grown to include perhaps 6,000 fighters. But this group, perhaps fearing that it will be targeted by Western counterterrorism forces, is said to be keeping its head down — and perhaps commingling with the Salafist umbrella group.
Idriss and his Free Syrian Army command about 50,000 more fighters, rebel sources say.