When His Highness Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar visited Washington, D.C., in April 2018, he came with a clear message: “Qatar is ready to play a pivotal and long-term role in maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East.” This role depends on Armed Forces that are keen to protect their homeland and its achievements, along with a defensive military strategy that maintains security and stability.
To build powerful Armed Forces, the emir relies on experienced Soldiers with strong determination, patience, steadfastness and pride. Qataris called these knights raei al-samlah, a local term that means “man of determination.” Unipath interviewed one of these knights with the samlah spirit.
He is Qatar Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ghanim bin Shaheen al-Ghanim.
Gen. Ghanim’s view of the relationship between citizen and state is exemplified in his support for the country’s new National Service Program that recruits its sons for military service and prepares them to answer the call of duty at any moment. The general is encouraged that the first graduates of the program emerged well-prepared for service and benefited from the expertise of several countries. In return, the military has an obligation to be honest if it is to successfully represent society.
“Any lies or misleading facts will have a short life span on both the source and receiver alike. Honesty is one of the most important factors affecting continuity and success in our work,” he said. “Even with our media campaigns, we are very keen to maintain our credibility and not change what we have said as time passes. This is our approach with the people and the media, and it has been a successful approach over years, not only in times of crises. This approach we used in the past and present has guaranteed for us that we are successfully invested in the future.”
But Gen. Ghanim emphasized that credibility requires concerted efforts by all citizens, whether members of the military, politicians, economists, journalists or security officials. “Together, these efforts will ultimately lead to building the country,” he said.
Gen. Ghanim was born in Qatar in 1955 and graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Great Britain in 1975. He undertook basic pilot training in Saudi Arabia, where he learned to fly the F-5 fighter jet.
A series of important appointments followed. Starting with command of the 7th fighter squadron of the Qatar Emiri Air Force, equipped with Mirage F1 fighter jets, he rose to command the Air Defense Wing. He later took charge of the Air Operations Center, before his promotion to director of Qatari air operations.
Gen. Ghanim received a bachelor’s degree in air science and earned a fellowship at the Pakistan Air War College. He has participated in numerous regional and international meetings, conferences and forums in the United Kingdom, France, the United States and elsewhere.
Military life came naturally to Gen. Ghanim, a true son of Qatar.
“When I started my journey, it was part of the self-realization process. We’ve been raised in our Arab culture based on a foundation of accepting challenges, patience and perseverance. As we say in Qatar: ‘Endure and persevere.’
“We have been raised in an environment that has witnessed a dramatic shift and requires of us much patience and endurance. To quote a local proverb: ‘He who is without patience is not a real man.’ God bless all our sheikhs who, since the beginning of our military careers, have given us their trust and a lot of authority and responsibility.”
The general recalls with pride the faith that Emir Sheikh Tamim placed in him by appointing him director of operations for the Asian Games in 2006.
“God bless you, thank you for being patient with our ignorance and our challenges in order to be productive people and contribute to our society,” the general told the emir.
In advising young officers, Gen. Ghanim instructs them in the need for trust and discipline.
“When young officers concentrate on those two processes, they will be able to excel in their work, and they also need to attach importance to continuing education and development,” he said. “They should not stop after receiving a college degree or graduating from military school, national defense school or any other military institutions, since education is a constant process that guarantees the development of their abilities and sharpening their skills.”
Gen. Ghanim has a strong philosophy about the role of military commanders in relation to their troops. It starts with a strong sense of service toward their men in all parts of their lives. If the troops have little confidence in their leaders, how can they perform their duties effectively?
“This Soldier knows his duties very well, and he has clear instructions. He knows that he will get the care that he deserves, not only in his workplace, but everywhere. This Soldier should be safe and at ease in his concerns about his family because these factors will affect his efficiency in performing his duty,” the general said.
“We are not only responsible for providing this Soldier with weapons and munitions or giving him instructions and restrictions; we are also responsible for everything affecting his way of thinking to perform properly and in accordance with his orders. Most important, this Soldier should have the confidence to speak up without fear of reprisal when he criticizes an incident or notes some deficiency in his work processes.”
Gen. Ghanim praised the wisdom of Qatar’s leaders for their focus on building the military and security institutions to guarantee the safety and stability of the country. That effort includes building a sense of purpose so that they turn their energy toward improving society.
“Our political leadership made sure to invest in youths to become productive individuals who contribute positively to their community,” he said. “We know that planting hope will not be achieved in one day. We must take care of that hope and protect it from harsh winds and weather changes, encouraging it to grow, blossom and bear fruit and produce new seeds.”