United Arab Emirates
The numerous treaties that Britain concluded with the several
gulf amirates in the nineteenth century provided, inter alia,
that the British were responsible for foreign relations and protection
from attack by sea. Until the early 1950s, the principal military
presence in the Trucial Coast states (sometimes referred to as
Trucial Oman) consisted of British-led Arab security forces and
the personal bodyguard units of the ruling shaykhs. In 1951 the
British formed the Trucial Oman Levies (later called the Trucial
Oman Scouts) under a British commander who reported to the British
political agent of the gulf. By the time the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) became independent on December 2, 1971, the scouts had become
a mobile force of about 1,600 men, trained and led by about thirty
British officers assisted by Jordanian noncommissioned officers
(NCOs). Arabs from the Trucial Coast made up only about 40 percent
of the strength; Omanis, Iranians, Pakistanis, and Indians made
up the remainder. Organized as light armored cavalry, the scouts
used British weapons, trucks, and armored cars in carrying out
police functions and in keeping peace among the tribes of the
various amirates. During its approximately two decades of existence,
the unit was respected for its impartial role in maintaining public
order on the coast.
At the time of independence and federation, the Trucial Oman
Scouts became the nucleus of the Union Defense Force (UDF), responsible
to the federal minister of defense, the Supreme Council of the
Union, and--ultimately--to the president of the federation, Shaykh
Zayid ibn Sultan Al Nuhayyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi, who continued
to fill this office in 1993. Separate amirate forces are also
authorized by the provisional constitution, and the separate entities
of the union--especially Abu Dhabi--have made clear that they
intend to maintain their own forces. Drawing on tremendous oil
wealth accumulated in the early 1960s, the amir of Abu Dhabi gave
high priority to the development of the Abu Dhabi Defense Force
(ADDF) when the British withdrawal from the gulf was announced.
The ADDF--with 15,000 men and primarily British and Jordanian
officers-- consisted of three army battalions, an artillery battery,
twelve Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers, and a sea defense wing of
four fast patrol boats. Dubayy had a much smaller force of 2,000,
Ras al Khaymah had 900, and Sharjah had even fewer.
Personnel for the UDF and separate amirate forces were recruited
from several countries of the region, but soon after independence
enlistments from Dhofar region in Oman and from the People's Democratic
Republic of Yemen (PDRY, also seen as South Yemen) were curtailed
out of fear that personnel from these areas might spread dangerous
revolutionary doctrines. As the largest in territory, the most
populous, and by far the richest of the amirates, Abu Dhabi has
borne the brunt of funding the federation's military establishment.
A major step toward unification of forces occurred in 1976 when
Abu Dhabi, Dubayy, and Ras al Khaymah announced the merger of
their separate armed forces with the UDF. Sharjah had previously
merged its police and small military units into the UDF.
Despite the promises and pledges of 1976, true integration and
unification of the UAE armed forces has not occurred. The UDF
is seen by some, particularly the amir of Dubayy, as merely an
extension of Abu Dhabi power. Individual amirs view their forces
as symbols of sovereignty no matter the size or combat readiness
of the units. The separate forces therefore continue as they had
earlier, but they are called regional commands, only nominally
part of the UDF. Shaykh Zayid ibn Sultan's attempt to install
his eighteen-year-old son as commander in chief in 1978 shook
the fragile unity of the UDF. Although the appointment was rescinded,
Dubayy's resolve strengthened to maintain the autonomy of the
Central Military Command, its own regional military command.
As of 1992, the commander in chief of the UDF was Zayid ibn Sultan.
The crown prince, Lieutenant General Khalifa ibn Zayid Al Nuhayyan,
held immediate command as deputy commander in chief. The chief
of staff with operational responsibilities was Major General Muhammad
Said al Badi, a UAE national who replaced a Jordanian general
in the post in the early 1980s. His headquarters is in Abu Dhabi.
The minister of defense is Shaykh Muhammad ibn Rashid Al Maktum,
son of the ruler of Dubayy. The ministry, located in Dubayy, concerns
itself primarily with administrative, personnel, and logistic
matters and apparently has little influence on operational aspects
of the UDF.
In data published by the Department of State in mid-1991, the
total strength of the UDF with responsibility for defense of six
of the seven amirates was estimated at 60,000. Dubayy forces of
the Central Military Command with responsibility for the defense
of Dubayy were given as 12,000. The Department of State estimated
that there were 1,800 in the UDF air force and 1,000 in the navy.
Estimates of ground forces given in The Military Balance,
1992-1993 were significantly lower.
The Military Balance stated that perhaps 30 percent
of the armed services consist of foreigners, although other sources
claim that the forces had a much higher proportion of non-UAE
nationals. Omanis predominate in the enlisted ranks, but there
are also many Pakistanis among the more than twenty nationalities
represented. Well into the 1980s, many mid-level officers were
Britons under contract, as well as Pakistanis and Omanis. By 1991
the officer corps was composed almost exclusively of amirate nationals,
according to the Department of State. The UAE lacks a conscription
system and is unlikely to adopt one. It was announced in 1990
that all university students would undergo military training as
a requirement for graduation. Although adopted as a reaction to
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the UAE authorities reportedly are
considering continuation of the requirement as a possible prelude
to reservist training.
Data as of January 1993