Boost military cooperation and special forces to fight terrorism, conference told

Defence ministers and special forces commanders gathered at the Middle East Special Operations Commanders conference this week.
Jordan’s Lt Gen Mashal Al Zaben said special forces are the backbone of the modern military. Mandel Ngan / AFP
Jordan’s Lt Gen Mashal Al Zaben said special forces are the backbone of the modern military. Mandel Ngan / AFP

ABU DHABI / Regional defence ministers and special forces commanders have called for more cooperation to boost military capability and fight extremism in an increasingly unsettled world.

Hundreds attended the Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference and Special Operations Forces Exhibition in Amman, which ended on Thursday.

The conference also heard about the UAE’s plans to build up its industrial defence sector.

“The threat of terrorism and extremism knows no bounds,” said Maj Gen Michael Nagata, the commander of the US Special Operations Command Central.

“Special operations forces must change, because having the best access to information and intelligence, through technology and building international partnerships, will define success.”

Lt Gen Mashal Mohammed Al Zaben, chairman of Jordan’s joint chiefs of staff, also called on international alliances to improve their performance.

“You need to look at what your capabilities are and where your offering needs strengthening,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, the executive chairman of Paramount Group, Africa’s largest defence and aerospace business. “The right partner can be a game changer. The days of procurement are over. In-country partnerships, with the right partner, are the future.”

The conference also heard that armies should invest heavily in bolstering special-operations capabilities. “Special forces are the backbone of the armed forces,” said Lt Gen Al Zaben. The global war on terror is considered a long war, so we should think about the demands that brings, he said.

But the regional environment is becoming more complex and special forces will have to adapt accordingly. Maj Gen Hussein Hawatmeh, the commander of the Jordanian Rangers Brigade, said Al Qaeda was using instability, illiteracy and poverty to exploit Syria’s crisis.

“There is an emerging environment where new threats, new technologies and international cooperation lay the basis for forces to act rapidly across the spectrum of strategic scenarios,” he said.

Keeping up to date with military technology will prove vital.

“The modern battlefield is becoming increasingly advanced,” said Brig Gen Dag Baehr, the commander of the German Special Forces Command KSK.

“Military operations are conducted today in complex electromagnetic environments. Effective electronic warfare must be able to switch from ‘gathering’ to ‘hunting’.”

Mr Ichikowitz said: “The Middle East is experiencing a heave of change as governments face internal and external threats and [this] is fuelling the demand for weaponry, defence capabilities, experience and solutions.”

He said finding the right partner for technology-transfer solutions was also a must. “The Emirates wants to become an arms exporter and a naval vessel maintenance powerhouse over the next five to 10 years. They also want to train up their human resources and in-country capabilities. Knowledge, intelligence and technology transfer is crucial to this process.”

Col Musallam Alrashedi, the commander of the UAE Special Operations, said there was a shift towards greater information availability that was more knowledge-based, computerised and automated, which in turn boosts efficiency.

“While the role of special forces is evolving in the digital age, the fundamental nature of special forces will not change,” he said.

Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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