A History of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef H. | Military Review, May/June 2004 | Go to article overview
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A History of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces

Aboul-Enein, Youssef H., Military Review

A History of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces

Kuwaiti Brigadier General Ameen Muhammad Al-Saqr's book Al-Qooah Al-Askariyah Al-Kuwaitiah: Ahad Al-Anaaser Qooah Al-Dawlah Al-Shamlah Lee Radeeah Al-Akhtar an Al-Dawlah (Kuwait military power: one of the aspects of comprehensive national power in determining threats to the state) delves into the history and national security concerns of the Emirate of Kuwait. The book, which was probably printed by the Kuwaiti Armed Forces in 1997, details how Kuwait's strategic thinking has led to an allocation of resources toward their defense and illuminates how threats from Iraq, dating from near the end of the Ottoman period in 1902, helped shape Kuwait's defensive posture. The book, which is perhaps one of only a few Arabic books that details the military strategy and tactics of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before and after Operation Desert Storm, reveals Kuwait's strategic priorities.

Kuwaiti Defense Before Independence

Al-Saqr discusses the evolution of Kuwait's armed forces from 1820 to the 1990 invasion of Iraq. Documents reveal that in 1820, Kuwait depended on tribal levies for its security and defense. Kuwait's main source of armaments from 1820 to 1912 came from gifts from government officials, tribal chiefs, war spoils, and purchases from regional markets in Africa, India, and the Persian Gulf area.

In 1912, Shiekh Mubarak Al-Sabah, the first emir to face a direct threat to Kuwait, negotiated with the British High Commissioner an agreement granting the tiny emirate 6,000 rifles with ammunition plus another one million rounds of ammunition for older rifles and muskets. The threat came from Iraqi King Ghazi bin Faisal, who assumed the throne from his father, King Faisal, I in 1932. It also had a rudimentary naval force of 35 merchant sailing ships and 150 smaller craft outfitted with different types of weapons.

Stages of Development

Kuwait's modern military, founded in late 1948, involved the separation of internal security forces from the armed forces, but the distinction did not become official until 1953 when the General of security Services (GSS) gave up units to form the Kuwait Army. The Kuwait Army's chief mission was to secure the border, deter smuggling, secure sensitive installations, and guard the royal family.

In 1954, Kuwait's military consisted of a headquarters element and three infantry units, which were posted in Kuwait City and Mubarakiyah Fort, close to the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. During the reorganization, the military's equipment consisted of rifles, light machineguns, heavy (mounted) machineguns, submachineguns, and pistols. Transportation elements consisted of trucks, jeeps, and armored personnel carriers. The reorganization was created to make the border security mission more efficient.

With the acquisition of Daimler military vehicles in 1955, the Kuwait military underwent another reorganization, creating the Sixth Mechanized Infantry Brigade, which was the first brigade-level formation headquartered at Mubarakiyah Fort. The formation stayed in place until 1967, when it transferred to Al-Jahraa. The brigade consisted of infantry, artillery (25-pound cannon), and tank formations, referred to in Arabic as "Kateebah" (battalion).

In the late 1950s, Al-Sabah focused on regular military training for recruits from different tribal affiliations and began delineating between specialties within the armed forces, particularly in infantry, artillery, anti-air weapons and missiles, communications, engineering, logistics, military band, military operations, and military health care. In 1953, Kuwait established an air force that until 1958 possessed helicopters, civilian passenger craft, and a single VIP aircraft.

After the discovery and development of Kuwait's oil reserves, the Waarah Infantry Battalion was formed under the command of Captain Muhammad Abdul-Aziz Al-Badr, whose mission was to protect oil installations and port facilities at Al-Ahmadiyah.

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