Bahrain Table of Contents
General Norman H. Schwarzkopf, commander in chief, United
States Central Command, with Brigadier General Muhammad ibn Abd
Allah Al Attiyah of Qatar, whom he presented with the Legion of
Merit for his role in Operation Desert Storm
Courtesy United States Air Force
General Norman H. Schwarzkopf speaks with Lieutenant
General Khamis ibn Humaid ibn Salim al Kilbani, chief of staff,
Royal Oman Land Forces, while touring As Sib Air Base during
Operation Desert Storm.
Courtesy United States Air Force
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
Bahrain Table of Contents