Country Listing

Azerbaijan Table of Contents


Force Levels and Performance

During the late Soviet period, Azerbaijan had supplied as many as 60,000 conscripts per year to the Soviet armed forces. In August 1992, Elchibey announced projected personnel levels for the Azerbaijani armed forces. His projection called for a force of 30,000 troops by 1996, divided into ground units, air force and air defense units, and a navy. Half of this force would consist of conscripts, half of individuals serving under contract. In 1994 estimated total troop strength had reached 56,000, of which 49,000 were in the army, 3,000 in the navy, 2,000 in the air force, and 2,000 in the air defense forces.

According to training plans, officers would graduate from a revamped Combined Command School (formerly the Baku Higher Arms Command School) and the Caspian High Naval School. The new Azerbaijani armed forces would rely almost exclusively on transferred or purchased Soviet equipment, although Azerbaijani machine industries had the capability to do some manufacturing and repairs. According to most Azerbaijani accounts, defense strategy in the near term is focused on territorial defense, the goals of which are defeating separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh and defending Azerbaijan's borders with Armenia.

Despite Elchibey's ambitious plan, in 1992 and 1993 Azerbaijan was forced to seek military assistance elsewhere. Reportedly, a group of American mercenary advisers arrived in Azerbaijan in 1992, and some Americans were believed still in the country in early 1994. Iranian, Russian, and Turkish officers also were training Azerbaijani forces in the early 1990s. In early 1993, Azerbaijan was able to field no more than a few thousand well-trained troops against Armenia, according to most accounts. In 1993 continued military defeats brought mass desertions.

To meet the need for troops, Azerbaijani authorities encouraged the organization and fielding of up to thirty paramilitary detachments, which in late 1993 were heavily criticized by Aliyev for their lack of military discipline. Aliyev reported to the legislature that these detachments were abandoning positions and weapons to the Armenians without an effort to defend them. About 1,000 former Afghan freedom fighters were hired in 1993, and volunteers from other Muslim countries also reportedly enlisted. In late 1993, the government began forced recruitment of teenagers, who were said to be used in human-wave attacks against Armenian positions.

Data as of March 1994