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Chief of Staff speaks about his vision for Kuwait’s security

KUWAIT: Kuwait Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Khaled Saleh Mohammad Al-Sabah spoke in a recent interview with Unipath about various topics related to his vision for his country’s security, cooperation with regional and international security agencies among other issues.

“Before taking an oath to defend my country until the last drop of my blood, I want to emphasize that it is every Kuwaiti’s patriotic duty to protect his homeland,” Gen Khaled said in the interview. “Under the guidance and leadership of His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait and supreme commander of the Armed Forces, and His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, we shall fearlessly face threats to the security and stability of our country. Kuwait is a peace-promoting state that works within the norms of the international community. It strives to elevate international law and order to maintain peace and prosperity throughout the globe. Our contribution is continuous, as we believe in the principles of the international community. We realize that without international order, the world is condemned to anarchy.” The following are excerpts from the interview:

Unipath: During your first year as chief of the general staff, what objectives have you pursued?

Gen Khaled: The first year in office has been very challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which altered our way of life and changed how things were usually done. My main objective is to protect the people of the State of Kuwait and its sovereignty, as Kuwait Armed Forces (KAF) is the deterrent sword against internal and external threats; that is the oath I took since I was commissioned as a military officer. To do so, I prioritized three main objectives, starting with maintaining a high status of combat readiness, which is an ongoing dilemma for every military leader in the world. At KAF, we maintain a very high level of readiness to reach our goals. Furthermore, KAF armament is always a priority, but investing in armament is only one part of the equation.

Equally important is enhancing our skills and building the capabilities of all parts of the military. That is why I think training and exercises are so crucial to us and are core principles to keep KAF ready at all times. Finally, working with government guidance in regard to budget cuts affecting the Armed Forces has been challenging, but we worked constantly to keep them from hindering our military goals. An example of budget cuts that we introduced in KAF was to reduce the number of military attaches abroad from five officers to two in some cases. That flexibility is compatible with our vision.

M1A2K tanks fire during training.

Unipath: How does the Kuwait Armed Forces cooperate with other Kuwaiti security agencies?

Gen Khaled: As Armed Forces we are part of Kuwait’s defense and security along with the Ministry of Interior, Kuwait National Guard and Kuwait Fire Force. Joint cooperation, effort and dedication is key for any team to achieve its common goals. So that is why we work together as a team along with our colleagues in different sectors of the government to deter any threat that attempts to destabilize our security and stability, as well as setting our security concerns as a team and tackling them together.

Unipath: How important are international partnerships, especially with the US military?

Gen Khaled: The US has been our strongest ally for the past 32 years. Its efforts to contribute to the security of Kuwait has been immense, and I thank them for that, especially US Central Command (CENTCOM), which is our direct partner in the region. We share many military training exercises on different levels with CENTCOM – for example the training exercise Eagle Resolve that KAF hosted in 2015 and 2017, in addition to the 2022 Eagle Resolve the US hosted with major contributions from KAF. In addition, we work closely with CENTCOM on subject matter expert exchange programs that are beneficial for both militaries and support both of us with knowledge in many fields, to ensure we work with the same lexicons and battle picture in the operational domain. Through coordination, KAF and CENTCOM are determined to eliminate violent extremist organizations in the region, which is a solid goal embraced by both of us.

Unipath: How does Kuwait contribute to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security forces?

Gen Khaled: KAF directly contributed to all military forces of the GCC countries, as we share joint training, exercises and unified forces that are ready to be deployed in operations. KAF is an integral part of the Unified Military Command, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council. We work closely with our allies in the GCC to preserve the security of the Middle East and the region as a whole. Furthermore, the Kuwait Army, Air Force and Navy continuously participate in mutual exercises with Gulf state militaries, in addition to having operations centers that function in the three domains. Cooperative Air Defense completes the picture within our area of interest.

Unipath: What is Kuwait’s approach to prevent and defeat violent extremist organizations (VEOs)?

Gen Khaled: Several ministries in the government collaborate to suppress and eradicate such ideologies. The Ministry of Education sponsors programs in schools to deter these radical ideologies. The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs sponsors seminars to show the true meaning of Islam, and specialized centers provide seminars to educate people who have extremist ideas and ease them back to society. As far as the KAF, we are ready at all times when called upon, by exchanging vital information with our allies and partners in the region and working together as a team with one goal, which is to defeat these extremist ideologies that are spreading rapidly around the world. In addition, we operate educational programs conducted by mobile teams of officers and noncommissioned officers who visit units to prevent indoctrination and recruitment by VEO. Moreover, as part of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition KAF works to preserve the morals of our Islamic religion by supporting the coalition leaders to defeat terrorism.

Unipath: How has KAF coped with changes to the way wars are fought over the past century?

Gen Khaled: Warfare has evolved from traditional battles to regular armies fighting guerrillas and militias, to today’s cyber warfare. Wars can be started without firing a single bullet. Cyber warfare is a crucial subject for any military today. KAF is armed with the latest technologies in that field, and we work continuously with different sectors within the Kuwait government along with our allies in the region to enhance our capabilities and deter any threat. In addition, we have established a new Cyber Security Directorate to be activated in 2022. This will set us up for defeating adversaries that have amplified their presence in the cyber domain to escape direct confrontation with our forces on the ground.

Unipath: What role did the Kuwait Armed Forces play during the COVID-19 pandemic and how did they adapt their training and exercises?

Gen Khaled: KAF played an integral part in the fight against COVID-19. We were among the governmental sectors that supported the Ministry of Health. KAF mobilized its cargo aircraft to evacuate residents stuck in different parts of the world and got them back to Kuwait. These aircraft also carried medical supplies and vaccines. Our military engineers built medical quarantine units and field hospitals to support the Ministry of Health in the fight against COVID-19.

We supported the Ministry of Interior and Kuwait National Guard in quarantining areas of the country to stop the spread of the virus. We opened our military hospital to the sick and also vaccination centers that served military personal and their families. Furthermore, KAF did not stop training; rather, it moved to the virtual environment to complete ongoing courses and developed new training programs in our institutions. This passion for new training competed with our ability to start up and complete exercises that had already been planned. It was critical to maintain peak readiness through adaptation to the pandemic. Our region needed to remain prepared for future challenges.

Unipath: How will the Kuwait Armed Forces contribute to the Kuwait 2035 vision?

Gen Khaled: Under the guidance of His Highness the Amir of the State of Kuwait and His Highness the Crown Prince, in transforming Kuwait into a leading regional financial, commercial and cultural hub by 2035, KAF plays a vital role. The main role is to protect the people of Kuwait and its sovereignty from any threat or challenge that we may face. That mission is shared by every person living in Kuwait. We ensure stability and security in the country and work closely with partners so that they may work safely and prosperously in alignment with the vision of Kuwait 2035 shared by our late Amir His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

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