(This event is organised by MEI’s Arabia Asia Research Cluster, as part of its quarterly public talks series.)
Today the UAE Armed Forces is probably the best military in the Arab world. Given its population of just one million citizens and a country the size of Scotland, this is a substantial achievement. It is even more impressive considering that the UAE only became a fully sovereign nation in 1971 and that until the early 1960s, the majority of its inhabitants lived a subsistence lifestyle, and there was little or no education, health services, roads, piped water or even electricity.
This presentation explains how the first locally-controlled military formed in 1965 grew so rapidly in size and capability to the point that by the late 1970s, the nation fielded supersonic jets, modern armoured vehicles, and Exocet-equipped fast attack craft. It details the five enduring roles of the UAE military, and how it has been increasingly called upon to help shape regional stability following the disengagement of the Middle East’s traditional powers as they sought to deal with domestic instability. The presentation concludes with the military’s key characteristics which have made it markedly different from other militaries – notably the direct and personal involvement by the country’s leadership in the military, a preference for the most advanced hardware, a multi-country equipment sourcing strategy, huge investment in human capital, and the engagement of expatriates to build capability through the transfer of knowledge.
About the Speaker(s)
Dr Athol Yates works at the Institute for International and Civil Security, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, teaching internal security, disaster management and public policy related to security issues. His latest book is a history of the UAE police and military forces from 1951 to 1980, and his next book on the evolution of the UAE Armed Forces is due out at the end of 2019.