x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Military stresses its human aspect

The Armed Forces stresses their humanitarian role, as well as their commitment to Gulf security, in a report released to coincide with National Day.

UAE Air Force's new F-16 Block 60 fighters.
UAE Air Force's new F-16 Block 60 fighters.

ABU DHABI // The Armed Forces stressed their humanitarian role, as well as their commitment to Gulf security, in a report released yesterday to coincide with National Day. "The strategy of the UAE is closely linked to the collective security strategy of the GCC states. It is also connected to the Arab and global peace and security," the report said. It coincided with a promise to the military by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, to modernise further. "I reassure them of my limitless trust in them, of my endeavour to develop their abilities and modernise their material, and to guarantee comprehensive care for them and for their families," Sheikh Khalifa said in an address published yesterday in Nation Shield, the Armed Forces magazine. The report included a mission statement, in which it said it "was and still is a defensive force that has no aggressive objectives. It is to protect rather than threat." The report said the military's definition of national security encompassed a humanitarian role, which "can be clearly seen through the active role of the Armed Forces in the UAE and abroad in the shape of humanitarian aid". It said the forces have put the Gulf security agenda into action with joint military exercises with regional states and global allies, mainly the US. Leaders of the six GCC states signed a defence agreement in Bahrain in Dec 2000, and followed it with meetings to integrate the region's armies. In March, GCC countries' chiefs of staffs met in Qatar to evaluate regional and international threats. Joint military exercises this year included the Gulf Shield exercise in March, hosted by the UAE with troops from Qatar and France. In April, there was a second exercise in the UAE with troops from Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the US, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan. The US has been the traditional protector and ally of the region's states, but the UAE has also been forging alliances with other countries. The nation has signed several defence co-operation agreements with France, and in 2003 negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Italian ministry of defence, which has still not been approved by the Italian parliament. France, which is to establish a 500-troop military base in the UAE, is the most important strategic partner after the US. It is also a major provider of hardware to the Armed Forces, including 60 Mirage fighter jets and 400 tanks. In 2004, Nato announced the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI), which four Gulf countries - the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar - signed. The ICI is a framework for training and information exchange, and Nato officials said it could lead to a military alliance between Nato and individual GCC states. Dr Mustafa Alani, a senior security adviser to the Gulf Research Centre, said multiple alliances better serve the UAE and the other GCC countries, and the US welcomes military partnerships in the region, especially with its allied nations. "I believe the US now have a policy to encourage their allies to take parts in the responsibility. Yes, the US is the major power in the area, but they need their allies," Dr Alani said. Building a French base in the country, he said, "is not against the US interests. It's not to compete with the US, and this is what make it very easy for the Emiratis to accept." Yesterday's report told of the Armed Forces' role in providing humanitarian aid to countries affected by disasters, man-made and natural. Examples included the army's role in the international force led by the US to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion in 1990. The report detailed the most recent humanitarian mission, in Yemen, where the army delivered medical equipment, medicine and other material to survivors of a flood that hit the impoverished country in October. The army set up a 100-bed field hospital and took part in the rescue operations, the report said. "The campaign in Yemen comes as part of our leadership's interest to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and improve their living conditions. It also asserts the humanitarian role played by the Emirates, and its continued work relief those in need around the globe." mhabboush@thenational.ae