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UAE creating elite ‘Emirati Foreign Legion’ for combat operations abroad

March 17, 2024 at 9:47 am

Emirati flag fluttering above Dubai’s marina with the Burj Al Arab landmark hotel in the background [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is commissioning the construction of a new elite mercenary force resembling the French Foreign Legion, a leaked job advertisement has revealed.

According to the site Intelligence Online, an unnamed former French special forces officer is leading the initiative to construct an elite unit that would operate as part of the UAE’s regular army but with foreign recruits.

Based on Abu Dhabi’s decision and managed by an Emirati company, the recruitment drive will take place from July this year to the middle of 2025, resulting in a force comprising of 3,000-4,000 foreign recruits or “Foreign Legion Operators”.

Labelled the Emirati Foreign Legion, the elite force seeks “experienced and highly disciplined” recruits and “individuals who are physically fit, well-trained, and capable of operating under high-stress conditions and adapting to diverse environments”. It will reportedly be deployed to Yemen and Somalia – key targets of the UAE’s foreign policy ambitions in recent years.

Although the pay has not been confirmed, the role is expected to be sufficient for for young men looking for “a unique opportunity to contribute to significant operations”, with the advertisement guaranteeing that “Every 3 years a promotion will be offered and the salary of the operator will increase”.

Despite reportedly being based on the model of the French Foreign Legion, it differs in some key aspects, particularly in the sense that the French version is willing to take in men inexperienced in a military career – albeit with a standard of physical fitness and other attributes – while the Emirati model presumably seeks individuals already experienced in military and combat training.

The French Foreign Legion also creates and gives new identities to recruits, separating them from their old lives, while it is not yet clear if the Emirati Foreign Legion will do the same.

Starting from the likes of Yemen and Somalia, this new elite foreign unit will be deployed to operate in major fronts of Emirati foreign policy in East Africa and the Red Sea region. It could also potentially be assigned to assist paramilitary forces and non-state actors that Abu Dhabi has controversially backed over the years, such as Libya’s eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar against the country’s UN-backed government and the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia against the country’s military.

READ: Will mercenary Gulf armies signal a new Western colonial security order?