In company with other gulf amirates, Qatar had long-standing
ties with Britain but had remained under nominal Ottoman hegemony
until 1916, when the British took over the foreign affairs and
defense of Qatar. During the next five decades, Britain also exercised
considerable influence in the internal affairs of the amirate.
When the announcement came that it would withdraw its military
forces from the gulf by 1971, Qatari leaders were forced to consider
how to survive without British protection. Unable to support a
large military establishment, Qatar has placed its reliance on
small but mobile forces that can deter border incursions. Nevertheless,
the Iran-Iraq War brought attacks on shipping just beyond its
territorial waters, underscoring its vulnerability to interference
with oil shipments and vital imports. In addition to seeking collective
security through the GCC, Qatar has turned to close ties with
Saudi Arabia, entering into a bilateral defense agreement in 1982.
The ruler in 1992, Shaykh Khalifa ibn Hamad Al Thani, had taken
control of the country twenty years earlier, when the leading
members of the ruling family decided that Khalifa's cousin, Ahmad
ibn Ali Al Thani, should be replaced because of his many shortcomings
as amir. As supreme commander of the armed forces, Khalifa ibn
Hamad issued a decree in 1977 appointing his son and heir apparent,
Hamad ibn Khalifa Al Thani, to the post of commander in chief.
The same decree created the Ministry of Defense and named Hamad
ibn Khalifa as minister. Hamad ibn Khalifa was a graduate of Sandhurst
and had attained the rank of major general.
At the time of independence on September 3, 1971, the armed forces
consisted of little more than the Royal Guard Regiment and some
scattered units equipped with a few armored cars and four aircraft.
By 1992 it had grown to a force of 7,500, including an army of
6,000, a navy of 700, and an air force of 800. In addition to
the Royal Guard Regiment, the army had expanded to include a tank
battalion, three mechanized infantry battalions, a special forces
company, a field artillery regiment, and a SAM battery. The combined
combat strength of these units, however, is estimated to be no
more than that of a reinforced regiment in a Western army.
Initially outfitted with British weaponry, Qatar shifted much
of its procurement to France during the 1980s in response to French
efforts to develop closer relations. The tank battalion is equipped
with French-built AMX-30 main battle tanks. Other armored vehicles
include French AMX-10P APCs and the French VAB, which has been
adopted as the standard wheeled combat vehicle. The artillery
unit has a few French 155mm self-propelled howitzers (see table
40, Appendix). The principal antitank weapons are French Milan
and HOT wire-guided missiles. Qatar had also illicitly acquired
a few Stinger shoulder-fired SAMs, possibly from Afghan rebel
groups, at a time when the United States was trying to maintain
tight controls on Stingers in the Middle East. When Qatar refused
to turn over the missiles, the United States Senate in 1988 imposed
a ban on the sale of all weapons to Qatar. The ban was repealed
in late 1990 when Qatar satisfactorily accounted for its disposition
of the Stingers.
Three French-built La Combattante III missile boats, which entered
service in 1983, form the core of the navy. The boats supplement
six older Vosper Thornycroft large patrol boats. A variety of
smaller craft are operated by the marine police.
The air force is equipped with combat aircraft and armed helicopters.
Its fighter aircraft include Alpha Jets with a fighter-ground
attack capability and one air defense squadron of Mirage F1s,
all purchased from France. All of the aircraft are based at Doha
International Airport. The planned purchase from the United States
of Hawk and Patriot missile systems will give Qatar a modern ground-based
air defense. British pilots on detail in Oman remain on duty with
the air force, and French specialists are employed in a maintenance
capacity. Nevertheless, an increasing number of young Qataris
have been trained as pilots and technicians.
The lack of sufficient indigenous manpower to staff the armed
forces is a continuing problem. By one estimate, Qatari citizens
constitute only 30 percent of the army, in which more than twenty
nationalities are represented. Many of the officers are of the
royal family or members of leading tribes. Enlisted personnel
are recruited from beduin tribes that move between Qatar and Saudi
Arabia and from other Arab groups. Many Pakistanis serve in combat
units. In 1992 there were still a number of British officers,
as well as Britons, French, Jordanians, and Pakistanis in advisory
or technical positions. More young Qataris are being recruited,
and the number of trained and competent Qatari officers is steadily
Although official data on military expenditures are not published,
the defense budget estimate of US$500 million for 1989 was 8 percent
of the gross domestic product (GDP--see Glossary). The estimate
of US$934 million for 1991, an increase of 80 percent over 1989,
was presumably attributable to the costs of the Persian Gulf War.
During the hostilities, the Qatari tank battalion was deployed
to the Saudi-Iraqi border as part of Joint Forces Command East.
Saudi and Qatari forces that had dug in to defend the road leading
south from the border town of Ras al Khafji were forced to withdraw
when the Iraqis made their only incursion onto Saudi territory
on January 29, 1991. The three Saudi battalions and the one tank
battalion from Qatar maintained contact with the Iraqi forces
and participated in the coalition counterattack two days later
that drove the Iraqis out of the town with considerable losses.
The Qatari contingent, composed mostly of Pakistani recruits,
acquitted itself well. The Qatari battalion also formed part of
the Arab forces that advanced across Iraqi positions toward the
city of Kuwait during the general coalition offensive on February
24, 1991. Beginning on January 22, 1991, Qatari aircraft joined
other countries in carrying out strikes against Iraqi forces.
United States, Canadian, and French fighter squadrons flew daily
missions from Doha during the gulf war. One Qatari tank was lost
in the engagement, and a number of Arab soldiers were killed or
wounded. No Qatari combat deaths were reported during the war.
Although the amirate has experienced little internal unrest,
the large number of foreigners--forming 80 percent of the work
force--are regarded as possible sources of instability. Qatar
is determined to maintain control over their activities and limit
their influence. A significant number of resident Palestinians,
some of whom included prominent businessmen and civil servants,
were expelled after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Iranian Shia
have not been the source of problems but are nevertheless looked
on as potential subversives. Foreigners are liable to face arbitrary
police action and harassment and often complain of mistreatment
after their arrest.
The Ministry of Interior has controlled the police force of about
2,500 members since 1990. The local police enforces laws and arrests
violators. The General Administration of Public Security, which
in 1991 replaced the Criminal Investigation Department, is a separate
unit of the ministry charged with investigation of crimes. The
Mubahathat (secret police office), a nearly independent branch
of the Ministry of Interior, deals with sedition and espionage.
The army's mission does not include internal security, although
the army can be called on in the event of serious civil disturbances.
Nevertheless, a separate agency, the Mukhabarat (intelligence
service), is under armed forces jurisdiction. Its function is
to intercept and arrest terrorists and to keep surveillance over
Qatar has both civil and sharia courts, but only sharia courts
have jurisdiction in criminal matters. Lacking permanent security
courts, security cases are tried by specially established military
courts, but such cases have been rare. In sharia criminal cases,
the proceedings are closed, and lawyers play no formal role except
to prepare the accused for trial. After the parties state their
cases and after witnesses are examined by the judge, the verdict
is usually delivered with little delay. No bail is set, but in
minor cases, charged persons may be released to a Qatari sponsor.
Most of the floggings prescribed by sharia law are administered,
but physical mutilation is not allowed, and no executions have
occurred since the 1980s.
The police routinely monitor the communications of suspects and
security risks. Although warrants are usually required for searches,
this does not apply in cases involving national security. The
security forces reportedly have applied severe force and torture
in investigating political and security-related cases. Suspects
can be incarcerated without charge, although this is infrequent.
The United States Department of State noted that standards of
police conduct have improved in spite of a 1991 incident in which
a group of Qataris were detained without charge for two months
in connection with the unauthorized publication of tracts and
letters critical of the government; at least one member of the
group, which included several members of the ruling family, is
said to have been beaten.
Data as of January 1993