Country Listing

Chad Table of Contents


The Chadian National Armed Forces

Figure 9. Organization of the Military Establishment, Late 1985

As of mid-1987, FANT had a manpower strength of 28,000, exclusive of the Presidential Guard. At the time of its official establishment in 1983, FANT consisted primarily of FAN troops, the well-disciplined and hardened combat veterans who had been the original followers of Habré. FANT gradually expanded, recruiting members of the former national army, FAT, who were predominantly southerners of the Sara ethnic group. Later, additional southerners, the commandos or codos who had opened a guerrilla campaign against the government in 1983, were won over after two and one-half years of negotiations. Assigned to rehabilitation camps for retraining, the physically fit among them were also inducted into FANT. Finally, in the latter half of 1986, after FAP, the largest component of Goukouni's northern rebel army, had revolted against its Libyan ally, FAP soldiers were merged into FANT to join the campaign against the Libyan bases in Chad (see Appendix B).

Under Chadian law, both men and women reaching the age of twenty-one were obligated for one year of military or civic service. There was no systematic conscription system; young men were simply rounded up periodically in their communities and required to serve in the army for longer or shorter periods as military needs dictated. According to one source, very few members of FANT were conscripts in 1987. Women served in the military, but their exact duties were unknown.

The Chadian army has never been organized at higher than battalion level. As of 1987, four battalions had been established within FANT. Sometimes known as "commando battalions," they were far smaller than standard battalions, with no more than 400 soldiers in each. Two of the battalions had completed training in Zaire, and the training of a third was underway. The fourth battalion existed mainly on paper; the companies assigned to it were still operating independently.

The bulk of the remainder of FANT consisted of 127 infantry companies. Each company had a nominal strength of about 150 men but in many cases as few as 100 because of casualties and other forms of attrition. The organizational pattern was flexible; a new company could be formed as needed by detaching troops from existing units and then might be dismantled after the operational need had ended. Moreover, a force of wheeled armored vehicles was organized separately into armored squadrons, each ordinarily supplied with ten or eleven vehicles along with truck-mounted recoilless rifles and antitank missiles, and subdivided in up to four armored sections. The armored squadrons could be detailed as needed to operate in conjunction with infantry companies.

FANT had no separate elements dedicated to airborne operations. Soldiers trained as paratroopers, however, were scattered throughout FANT and the Presidential Guard after they had received instruction from the French teams that visited Chad and other French-speaking African states annually for this purpose.

Because of the chaotic conditions and the severe financial constraints on the government, systematic promotions in the officer corps had been suspended in the 1970s. As a result, many officers with senior responsibilities were lieutenants or captains, or they held no formal military rank at all. Officers of Habré's original FAN were known simply as camarade (comrade), and many, like the commander in chief, Djamouss, continued to be addressed in this way. Trusted associates of Habré were sometimes detached from civilian posts and given temporary military commands.

Those officers of the former national army, FAT, who rallied to FANT were guaranteed retention of their former ranks, but not positions of equivalent responsibility. Accordingly, a major or colonel sometimes served under a lieutenant or captain. On occasion, an officer selected for training abroad might be granted the rank appropriate for the program to which he had been nominated, in effect resulting in his promotion. Thus, Idris Deby, the former commander in chief of FANT, was promoted to lieutenant colonel in conjunction with his attendance at the French war college. With the exception of two generals no longer holding active commands in 1988, the highest rank in FANT was that of colonel.

The main fighting units of FANT, a group that had performed superbly against the Libyans during the 1987 offensive, were young but toughened by several years of harsh desert warfare. Their tactics of rapid movement and sudden sweeps upon an unsuspecting enemy were reminiscent of their nomadic warrior forebears. Decentralized decision making reportedly permitted field commanders to mount major attacks on their own initiative. Limited by poor communications, these commanders, in turn, sometimes described only general objectives in advance of an attack and depended on individual unit leaders to coordinate blows of devastating surprise and firepower.

Foreign military observers were impressed by FANT's fighting style and rated it highly for esprit and combativeness. Nevertheless, the discipline and orderliness of a traditional army were not greatly in evidence. Except for members of the Presidential Guard, who favored the desert camouflage uniform of the United States Army if it were available, the troops did not wear a standard uniform. Personal gear sometimes consisted merely of a prayer rug--which also served as a sleeping pad--and a sheepskin for warmth. Shower clogs were considered adequate footgear, nor were the rations what one might expect in a regular army. Individual combat rations were often no more than green tea, dried dates, and hard biscuits. Occasionally, meat from a slaughtered sheep or camel would be available. A FANT veteran could survive desert heat on as little as one liter of water a day.

Unreliable payment of wages was a persistent problem for FANT troops. The bitterness in the south against the central government, which had resulted in outbreaks of violence between 1983 and 1985, was caused in part by confiscations of food and personal property by unpaid FANT troops. As of 1983, it was reported that FANT soldiers were paid the equivalent of US$140 for each major battle, although those qualified to fire large-caliber weapons and missiles could earn much more. By 1986 a system of monthly payments was in effect, but, owing to the government's financial distress, both soldiers and civil servants were on half pay. In practice, only the Presidential Guard received its wages in full and on a timely basis. The salary of an NCO in the Presidential Guard was about US$70 a month; officers could earn up to US$150. In FANT, the officer's basic salary of about US$70 a month was likely to be augmented by supplemental allowances based on the position being filled. Djamouss, the highest paid officer in FANT, earned about US$1,000 a month, plus the use of an automobile and a house and other privileges.

Although the military victories of 1987 had imparted a sense of national pride and unity to FANT that had not existed previously, the dependability of the troops newly recruited from other armed factions had not yet been fully demonstrated. In early 1988, longstanding animosities and ethnic rivalries remained, and morale among ordinary soldiers was believed to be no better than fair. Rates of desertion and absence without leave were high, although not yet serious enough to affect the army's performance. Nevertheless, in spite of its austerity, military life provided food, clothing, and minimal cash compensation. For many recruits, these modest benefits compared favorably with the impoverished conditions they faced when they returned to civilian existence.

Data as of December 1988

Country Listing

Chad Table of Contents