Personnel, Training, and Recruitment
Unlike other Persian Gulf states, Kuwait has a conscription system
that obligates young men to serve for two years beginning at the
age of eighteen. Educational deferments are granted, and university
graduates serve for only one year. In practice, exemptions are
liberally granted, and most young Kuwaitis are able to avoid military
duty. Estimates are that only 20 to 30 percent of the prewar military
ranks were filled by Kuwaiti nationals. Military and security
forces had been purged of Shia personnel during the 1980s. At
the outbreak of the gulf war, Palestinians filled many technical
positions, supported by thousands of Pakistanis, Indians, and
Filipinos in maintenance and logistic functions. Officers on detail
from Britain, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan provided military expertise.
Lower ranks in the army and security forces were occupied predominantly
by bidun who had taken reasonably well to military life
but were poorly prepared to absorb training in operating and servicing
modern equipment. In spite of reports that many bidun
fought well against the Iraqis, many were expelled from the army
in 1991 for alleged collaboration. Because of their removal and
the removal of Palestinians and other non-Kuwaitis, the ranks
of the services became seriously depleted. Few Kuwaitis volunteer
for military service, and conscription is not regarded as an acceptable
option. Under the circumstances, Kuwait will be hard pressed to
meet its goal of a postwar armed strength of 30,000. A relaxation
of the policy toward bidun was hinted at by the statement
of the minister of defense that people of "unspecified nationality"
may be retained after screening for loyalty and may even be given
Kuwaiti citizenship. With respect to conscription, the minister
of defense in July 1991 said that the system was being reviewed
to make it more effective.
Most Kuwaiti officers are members of the ruling family or related
tribal groups. Education standards are high--many are graduates
of Sandhurst--and living conditions, pay, and benefits are excellent.
The Kuwaiti Military College accepts secondary school graduates
for eighteen months of cadet training in army, air force, and
navy programs. The United States provides pilot training and assistance
in developing a flight training facility within Kuwait. United
States, British, and French military missions and civilian contractors
provide training for more technologically advanced systems. A
small Soviet advisory group provided training in the use of Soviet
missile systems before the Persian Gulf War.
Traditionally, the officer corps--with its close links to the
ruling family--was considered to be a loyal and trustworthy defender
of the regime. In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, however,
there were displays of discontent among officers arising from
the inadequate response of the armed forces to the Iraqi invasion
and the failure to launch postwar reforms. Many of the 6,000 officers
and men taken prisoner by the Iraqis were prevented from rejoining
the armed forces and were angered at their treatment by senior
officers who fled to Saudi Arabia. In June 1991, some officers
of the resistance group known as the Second of August Movement
petitioned the amir to dismiss the former ministers of defense
and interior from their cabinet posts and to investigate the reason
the Kuwaiti army was not mobilized or on the alert when the Iraqis
attacked. The petition also called for removal of the army chief
of staff and his immediate staff and as many as twenty generals
and seventy-five colonels.
In July fourteen senior officers were forced into retirement.
The amir reportedly met with disaffected officers to tell them
that their calls for reform would be considered. Officers threatened
with dismissal for signing the petition were reinstated, and other
reform-minded officers were reportedly promoted.
Data as of January 1993