Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) “Supreme Military Command,” has been endorsed repeatedly by Western officials, and is constantly courting more weapons, more money, and more supplies for the rebellion.
Yet Idriss admits that nearly a year after he defected the rebels remain badly fragmented, a problem he blames on the number of civilian-turned-fighter groups. He also conceded that as it stands the force lacks the skill to actually win the ongoing civil war.
US aid has been focused through Idriss’ group, and in April the $123 million aid announcement made by Secretary of State John Kerry came in the form of supplies straight to his command.
Yet as Islamists gain power in the rebellion, Idriss admits he has little influence over a lot of the rebel fighters on the ground, and only indirect control over even some of the brigades operating under the FSA label.
Idriss insists he does not, and will not, work with Jabhat al-Nusra, a large militant faction openly allied with al-Qaeda. Officials have presented that as a reason to endorse his group as a moderate alternative, but as the war stagnates, his limited influence leaves open the question of whether the aid is simply about grandstanding about regime change as opposed to backing real Syrian rebel leaders.