Saudi to borrow some troops from Pakistan? 6, March 2015Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
Tags: Da'esh threat, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan military cooperation, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Pakistan relations, Saudi threats
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have long had the closest of relationships. Extensive elite visits are a norm; the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, visited Riyadh this past week for the third time in 2015 alone.
Pan-Islamic dogma, remittances, aid, and security are the glues that bind the relationship together. Saudi Arabia has graciously spread its religious ideas in Pakistan and, naturally, built the biggest mosque in the country: the Faisal Mosque. Pakistan’s third largest city was even renamed Faisalabad after Saudi’s King Faisal in 1977. Today, there are approximately 1.5million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, sending home a third of all remittances that Pakistan receives (around $4.73 billion pa).
In return, aside from an acceptable source of workers, Saudi Arabia gets security cooperation. Pakistani soldiers were mobilised in 1990 to defend the Kingdom and cooperation continues though it is not clear how many Pakistani troops are currently deployed in the Kingdom.
Rumours also circulate that there has been some kind of an implicit deal between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan regarding nuclear weapons. Were Iran to properly ‘go nuclear’, the scurrilous theory goes, Saudi Arabia would acquire, in its most plausible iteration, an off-the-shelf nuclear weapon from Pakistan, the world’s first (and only) Islamic nuclear power. Frankly, this strikes me as perfectly plausible and fits with persistent rumours of Saudi’s part-funding of Pakistan’s original nuclear programme.
The latest security cooperation, according to the FT, is decidedly more conventional. Saudi Arabia is, apparently, seeking
to boost the numbers of its [Pakistan’s] troops in the kingdom to help bolster Riyadh’s defences against Islamic militants.
The threats to Saudi Arabia are real and apparent. To the north in Iraq there is Da’esh marauding around and to the south in Yemen, the Houthis – aka Iranians to the Saudis – are in the ascendancy. There are various implications of this iteration of Saudi-Pakistani discussions, chief among which is what this says about the indigenous Saudi Arabian armed forces.
The 2015 IISS Military Balance notes that Saudi Arabia has 227,000 men in active service: 75,000 in the Army; 13,500 in the Navy; 20,000 in the Air Force ; 16,000 in Air Defence; 2,500 in Strategic Missile Forces; and just the 100,000 in the National Guard. Just to briefly and far from exhaustively highlight a few systems and structures, the state possesses around 14 mechanized or armored brigades, 600 main battle tanks, 7 principal surface ships, 69 coastal patrol ships, and 313 ‘combat capable’ aircraft including over 140 F-15s of various types and more than 100 Tornado and Typhoons.
In short, on paper, Saudi Arabia has – to say the least – enough manpower and kit to take on the motley bunch that is Da’esh and defend themselves from whatever fractured, poor grouping might emerge from Yemen. Iran too, on paper, would be the merest of speed bumps on the Saudi march, let alone any other regional state aside from Israel.
But this is not, of course, how things work. Even ignoring issues of irregular tactics being employed by enemy actors which militates against sheer numbers and takes the edge off technologically advanced pieces of kit, there is a deep problem if a state with the putative numbers and military spending of Saudi Arabia needs to borrow some troops from Pakistan for security. Quite the conundrum for the new 29/34 year old Saudi Minister of Defence to solve.