Special Operations: Gulf Arab Special Operations Forces (SOF)


October 26, 2005: Quite a number of countries, including some Arab ones, have been contributing Special Operations Forces (commandoes) to the US/NATO Coalition forces in Afghanistan (one SOF operator called the war there "a SOF Olympics"). Normally, a contingent remains for a year and then rotates home, to be replaced by fresh troops. But some countries don't have all that many SOF personnel available to sustain a continuous rotation. This is particularly true for some of the Gulf Arab states. All of these countries have some SOF capability (though quality varies), and several have contributed contingents to operations in Afghanistan. But they are not able to sustain a continuous presence. There are several reasons for this. One is small population. Most of the Gulf states have a surprisingly high proportion of non-citizens in their ranks, usually men from poorer Moslem countries, notably Pakistan, who may be subject to the influence of Islamist radicalism; for example, of about 11,000 troops in the Kuwaiti Army, over 3,500 are foreigners, while of some 44,000 ground troops maintained by the UAE and its member states, over 13,000 are foreigners. While all of the Gulf states are working to reduce the proportion of foreigners in the ranks, they have a long way to go. This just complicates the problem of relatively low numbers, as all of these nations have quite small armed forces to begin with, and thus extremely small SOF/Commando contingents. In addition, they all have to retain some SOF personnel at home, given that they are themselves on the front lines in the war on Islamist extremism or other problems..


The current ground force and SOF Capabilities (both approximate) of the Gulf Arab states are;


Country     Army     SOF


Bahrain     8,500     550

Kuwait     11,000     500

Oman     25,000     1000

Qatar     8,500         150

UAE     44,000     Unknown


As a result of this shortage of SOF personnel, "rotation" of SOF contingents from the Gulf Arab states appears to proceed on somewhat different terms than that of other country's personnel. To begin with, the Gulf Arab contingents do not seem to remain for an entire year, but rather for 6-9 months. And when they leave, they are replaced by a contingent from one of the other Gulf Arab states.

Article Archive

Special Operations: Current 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004



Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. Because of falling ad revenues and the owners of the site wanting you to have a good experience, this poor pet bird (Drake) may end up as the turkey for the publisher’s Thanksgiving meal.

What can you do to help save the bird? There are three possibilities:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..

Drake appreciates any help you can give him.

Subscribe   Contribute   Close