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20 Jan, 2014 01:53

UAE to introduce compulsory military service

UAE to introduce compulsory military service

The United Arab Emirates is planning to introduce mandatory military service for young men, which might triple its military potential in case of a regional conflict.

All adult Emirati males under 30 will soon be obliged to serve in the military, the prime minister of UAE Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has announced.

According to the draft law, those without high school education will have to serve for two years, while those with a diploma will be required to serve 9 months. For women military service will be optional. Officials have not yet announced when exactly the system will be implemented.

“Protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty and the new law will be implemented on all,” Sheikh Mohammed said on his Twitter account. “Our gains are a red line that must be protected.”

Currently the size of the country’s armed forces is estimated at 51,000, according to London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Conscription could bring a reserve army twice that size, which will consist of retired soldiers and national service program graduates, Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the INEGMA Middle East think tank told Reuters.

“We have to remember the UAE has been procuring a lot of military systems, and they've been relying on foreign recruits to help man a lot of these,” Kahwaji said. The UAE enjoys good relations with the Western powers and relies heavily on their weapon supplies.

“Now with the conscription the UAE will start having more ... self-sufficiency in manning a lot of the systems,” he added.

United Arab Emirates army pilots pose in front of the AH-64D Apache helicopter (Reuters / Nikhil Monteiro)

UAE will become the second Gulf Cooperation Council nation to introduce compulsory military service over the last year. In November the Qatari government approved a bill introducing 3 or 4 months’ long military service for men between the ages of 18 and 35. Kuwait too has been mulling reinstating such a practice.

In December, United Arab Emirates and its Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, agreed to create a joint military command and to bring unity among the Gulf’s monarchs and display power in the region.

Saudi Minister of the National Guard Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah said that there will be “a unified command of around 100,000 members” with GCC Joint Military Command based in Riyadh. In the meantime, a Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies will be created in the United Arab Emirates.

To preserve its stability and prosperity in the country and the region, the UAE needs to “be on guard all the time,” Emirati political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdulla told Reuters.

“With this kind of decision today, I think the country is saying 'We want to continue with the stability and prosperity but we are also well-equipped for any eventuality',” Abdulla said.