Mauritania Table of Contents
Figure 12. Organization of National Security Forces, 1987
In 1987 the armed forces were organized under the president, who also served as minister of defense and oversaw all aspects of the military. Lieutenant Colonel Diallo Mohamed was second in command. Military headquarters staff was divided into offices handling personnel, intelligence, training and operations, and logistics. Headquarters staff also directed the signals, equipment, and quartermaster corps. The army was organized into five geographic regions (a sixth region had been reapportioned among the remaining five regions) and two at-large sectors, located in Mbeļrika and Kaédi (see fig. 12).
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the chief task of the Mauritanian military had been internal control. When French forces departed in 1966, Mauritanian armed forces numbered approximately 1,000 men (900 in the army and 100 in the fledgling air force). By 1971 they had grown 50 percent to over 1,500 men (army 1,444; air force, 100; and navy, 30). Daddah deliberately kept the armed forces small, however, to decrease the possibility of a military coup, and he relied on French military assistance to meet external threats.
With the advent of the Western Sahara war, the government raised troop strength and improved training. The armed forces expanded from 3,000 men at the beginning of 1976 to 12,000 by the beginning of 1977, and further expanded to between 15,000 and 17,000 at the beginning of 1978. To train staff officers, the government opened a combined services college at Atar in November 1976. Haidalla also introduced a military service program called the National Civic Service to assist the regular military forces. Restricted to Mauritanian People's Party (Parti du Peuple Mauritanienne--PPM) members at least eighteen years old, the program provided military training and political education for two half-days each week. The newly trained servicemen were to help with civil defense, intelligence, and press relations. This scheme failed, however, because Mauritanians were disillusioned with the war and viewed war-related efforts with skepticism and apathy.
Following the cease-fire with Polisario forces, Mauritanian armed forces strength was halved, decreasing from 17,000 in July 1978 to 9,450 in early 1979. The forces were further reduced to 7,970 by July 1980. The CMSN reorganized the army of 7,500 soldiers into one infantry battalion, one artillery battalion, two armored car squadrons, one antiaircraft battery, and one engineering company. The navy, on the other hand, increased the number of navy personnel to 320 and acquired two new patrol craft, bringing the total to thirteen. Paramilitary forces decreased in size from 6,000 to 2,750.
Attempted coups in 1981, 1982, and 1983, followed by defections, executions, and arrests of officers, devastated the morale of the armed forces. To add to their difficulties, the underequipped forces were charged with guarding the economically crucial iron mines of Zouīrāt, the port facilities at Nouadhibou, and the rail line between them. This difficult task, which exposed troops to attacks by well-equipped Polisario guerrillas, further eroded the forces' morale.
Data as of June 1988