Strengthening Militaries

Strengthening Militaries


Jordan, the UAE and Afghanistan focus on building capacity of their armed forces


A military’s capacity to defend its homeland and, when necessary, to project power on multinational missions is typically measured by the quantity and quality of troops, equipment and training. When it comes to strengthening armed forces in the face of immediate and potential threats, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Afghanistan have devised unique approaches to building military capacity within the constraints imposed by budgets and resources.

Jordan: New strategy and NCOs

His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein of Jordan recently called for an overhaul of the kingdom’s Armed Forces to advance a more professional, mobile military attuned to a digital age in which ideological battles can be as strategically significant as kinetic operations.

Since 2004, when the king published his Amman Message, the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) has conducted specialized training for military imams at the Prince Hassan College for Islamic Studies, where lectures promote authentic Islam and expose extremists as criminals who abuse religion. These imams have spread their message throughout Jordan and beyond to places such as Afghanistan, where they served as military chaplains in villages.

In recent years, the kingdom has also invested in upgraded weapons and equipment — including reducing reliance on tank formations less useful on today’s battlefield. In particular, it has focused on advanced border surveillance systems that help detect terrorists and smugglers attempting to cross into the kingdom.

But Jordan has expended perhaps its greatest efforts toward improvements to military training. In addition to hosting the annual Eager Lion exercise, the JAF has addressed a deficiency in its employment of noncommissioned officers (NCOs) by embarking on a multiyear training program to give these corporals and sergeants greater autonomy and authority on the battlefield.

A Jordan Armed Forces noncommissioned officer, right, graduates from the Jordan Basic Instructor Course in December 2016. U.S. CENTCOM

Dozens of Jordanian NCOs attended school for a year at the United States Army’s Warrior Leader Course at Fort Bliss, Texas, taking advantage of classroom instruction and opportunities to shadow American NCOs as they performed their duties. After the NCOs completed training, Jordan posted many of these newly trained men to units in Afghanistan to test their abilities under the stresses of peacekeeping and combat missions.

To maintain momentum, the JAF has set up its own training programs at home with the help of instructors from U.S. Central Command’s Military Assistance Program. Progress hasn’t been perfect: Trainers have reported resistance from Jordanian officers trained in the days when delegating authority to noncommissioned colleagues was construed as weakness. Experts suggest the problem isn’t unique to Jordan but is a cultural phenomenon familiar to militaries throughout the region.

Nevertheless, Jordanian NCOs have praised the training from their partners.

“We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to train with and learn from U.S. NCOs,” JAF 1st Sgt. Mohammad Omar Almaitah said after graduating from a course in late 2016. “We look forward to the next phase of training and working with the U.S. military.”

UAE: Armed and ready

With a small native population best known for its business acumen, the UAE has done an exemplary job of building a professional military that packs maximum punch. The year 2014 ushered in military conscription for citizens 18 and older. Combining that extra manpower with modern military hardware it has acquired over the years — including the recent multibillion-dollar purchase of Apache attack helicopters — the Emirates has been extending its military reach to fight extremism beyond its borders.

It recently employed its Air Force to strike Daesh positions in Syria and unleashed skilled ground troops to drive al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula from Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest city. In both cases, the UAE played a leading role in multinational coalitions assembled for those purposes.

As a member of the Combined Maritime Forces, the multinational naval coalition based in Bahrain, the UAE has contributed ships and Sailors to counterpiracy and countersmuggling missions in the Arabian Sea and beyond.

At the same time, the UAE has made use of soft power, helping to rebuild Afghanistan’s hospitals, school and roads in an attempt to reduce popular support for the Taliban and other extremists.

The UAE is also turning to international partnerships to develop a domestic defense industry that will allow it to more quickly replenish military equipment. The creation of Emirates Defense Industries Co. in 2014 represented a big step toward that goal.

Nimr Automotive, a subsidiary of the company, won a multibillion-dollar contract to supply the Armed Forces with more than 1,000 armored vehicles manufactured in the UAE. Further contracts to produce naval and aviation components are forthcoming.

Afghanistan: A focus on special forces   

Though it can be difficult to secure funds to strengthen the Armed Forces in Afghanistan — a uniquely challenging environment, given its recent wars and struggling economy — the country’s special forces remain a bright spot for the country’s military.

Kabul aims to double the manpower it commits to the Afghan National Army’s Special Operations Command. It employs about 17,000 Soldiers in units such as the Ktah Khas, the country’s elite national counterterrorism force, and in specially trained commando battalions.

“Our commando forces could be further strengthened, and they should receive more arms and new and sophisticated equipment,” said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

The Air Force sometimes struggles to find resources and personnel for missions, but Afghan commanders have managed to build a Special Mission Wing of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to conduct daylight and nighttime assaults, counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations, close air support, surveillance and reconnaissance.

In April 2017, Gen. Waziri announced that the Air Force awaited the arrival of dozens of new helicopters and airplanes, equipment that U.S. Central Command commanders believe could improve the performance of the Afghan military.

Afghan special forces carry out an estimated 70 percent of all missions in the country, proof of the confidence that leaders place in their training and abilities.

“This ability to deal with simultaneous crises … is a sign of an army that’s growing in capability,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said at the end of 2016.

Safeguarding Cyber Systems


In Iraq, the growth of the internet’s popularity — for security, business and personal use — coincided with a lack of secure cyber infrastructure. This raised awareness of the need to understand the dangers of cyber crimes accompanying every new technological development, especially in the context of society’s transformation into a cyber community. It grew out of individuals’ and institutions’ dependence on cyber and communication systems, which are considered some of the principal sources of danger.

The security sector must adapt to each new technological development. It should also design a specific cyber infrastructure and manage it according to the specialized concerns of cyber/communication security. It could also create other electronic government services, including online education.

Likewise, the rapid development of cyber/communication technologies will require all local and international entities to cooperate to demonstrate the importance of network security in the policymaking process. Through collaboration, government and private institutions can safeguard vital cyber infrastructure and strengthen cyber security.

A national cyber security strategy must be put in place in accordance with international standards, such as those of the International Telecommunication Union and other organizations. This will lead to the creation of a strategic plan to safeguard and strengthen our information infrastructure. This can be accomplished through the following steps:

Form a national team able to respond to cyber threats and eliminate their risks.

Raise awareness of cyber security issues and improve users’ ability to make smart decisions in managing cyber threats.

Increase the number and quality of cyber security engineering groups through continuous training.

Organize a national cyber security working group able to set strategic standards for cyber security training and professional development.

Ensure continual modernization of and secure financial allowances for network infrastructure development support through equipment and programs that conform to global encryption and cyber security standards.

Establish provisional data centers to provide rapid support in case the original centers are compromised or exposed to threats.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense is preparing strategies to implement the aforementioned steps and guarantee the most modern and secure cyber/communications technology systems infrastructure. This will help to achieve command, control, communications and intelligence goals.

I would like to thank all the participants at the recent Central Region Communications Conference
in Washington, D.C., which aimed to shed light on cyber security issues, spread a culture of cyber security among the public and concerned institutions, and establish connections among governmental cyber security specialists. It is our hope in Iraq to share information about cyber security initiatives and strengthen cooperation in matters related to cyber security.


U.S. Central Command hosted the Central Region Communications Conference in Washington, D.C., in April 2017. The conference focused on responding to cyber incidents and brought together experts and participants from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Check out the next edition of Unipath to read about the event and other cyber security initiatives.

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