US, UAE could cooperate on training programme

The UAE made a request that the US train members of the Presidential Guard Command in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and national defence.

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ABU DHABI // UAE troops could soon be trained in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, infrastructure protection and national defence by the US Marine Corps.

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the UAE’s request on Thursday to train the Presidential Guard Command at a cost of US$150 million (Dh551m).

“This type of training is important, especially for the infrastructure, because you have the question of oil which constitutes a good part of the economy,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, director of national security and terrorism at the Gulf Research Centre.

“You also have water desalination plants, which have all been previously targeted by terrorists and other groups, so the UAE definitely needs to train people to deal with this sort of new developing threats from non-state actors.”

The deal would include logistical support as well as military exercises, training and equipment.

The Presidential Guard uses these skills alongside US forces, particularly in Afghanistan, according to the agency.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” it said.

“The UAE continues host-nation support of vital US forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base and plays a vital role in supporting US regional interests.”

Experts say the US has a lot to offer.

“The US involvement in certain training and arms is irreplaceable,” said Dr Alani. “You have a good number of national military officers who trained in the US and, since before September 11, the US Marines have developed a very advanced stage in this because they were attacked and they are still a target. They have undoubtedly accumulated experience in the field.”

He said most of the UAE’s military arms and equipment were US-sourced.

“There is a huge gap that nobody can fill except the US as the source of our equipment is US-based,” he said. “There is a certain training that mainly the US are well-known for, especially in the Marines.

“They are the single largest marine force in the world and the US relies heavily on them. I don’t see anybody that can have such experience as much as them.”

The agency said training teams would travel to the UAE on a temporary basis.

“Terrorism and piracy are what we call soft threats which don’t come from the state,” said Dr Alani.

“All these sources are a new form of threats and, although the UAE does not face a threat from a state at this stage, the threat is all from unknown states.”

Dr Alani said the UAE’s reliance on different sources for the military training of its officers was vital.

“The UAE has a high degree of flexibility in that field and this is important because you can pick and choose which country has more experience in one field rather than the other,” he said.

Dr Anwar Eshki, a former army general and head of the Middle East Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, said the deal could only be beneficial.

“It’s a very good idea because they are receiving training locally and they can cooperate with Gulf troops,” he said. “They can work together to fight terrorists, pirates and other threats.”

Dr Eshki said Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, had been discussing such training.

“They are thinking of fighting terrorists in two ways – through soft and hard power,” he said. “But if we use hard power only, other people will be able to enrol with them, while if we use soft power also, we can catch the criminals and avoid any followers to enrol with them.”