Although not subordinate to the minister of defense and aviation and frequently referred to as a paramilitary or an internal security force, the National guard came to be regarded as an integral part of the Saudi military establishment with the modernization of its active units and its role in the Persian Gulf War. Its mission is primarily internal security, including protection of the major oil facilities in the Eastern Province and assistance to the regular forces of public order against civil disturbances. The service is also expected to assist the regular armed forces in repelling threats to the security of the kingdom′s borders, as was the case when the National Guard participated in the Persian Gulf War alongside regular army units.
The National Guard is a direct descendant of the Ikhwan, the tribal army that served King Abd al Aziz during his long effort to retake the Arabian Peninsula for the House of Saud. After having to curb the independent military operations and excesses of the Ikhwan, King Abd al Aziz permitted it to reappear as the so-called White Army (the name stemmed from the traditional Arab dress rather than uniforms worn by the members), which later became the National Guard. In the post-World War II era, the Saudi royal family decided that a parallel army such as the national guard would be a form of insurance against coups. Its continued existence is, however, also a matter of tribal and family politics.
The National Guard is similar in status to a ministry in the Saudi system. Itís under the personal control of the King acting through its commander, the Crown Prince. The National Guard′s command structure is entirely separate from that of the regular armed services. Itís not a reserve component similar to the national guard of the United States; at least part of it is an active-duty armed force existing parallel to, but separate from, the regular military service branches. The strength of the guard in 1992 was estimated at 75,000, but 20,000 of that total served in a militia status, on call for mobilization rather than on daily active duty.
Mode of Election
The head of the National Guard since 1962 has been the Crown Prince. The guard chain of command is completely separate from regular military channels, as is its communication system.
The chain of command is very narrowed, whereby commanders of major units report directly to the Crown Prince, who in turn is responsible to the King.
(last updated: 19-November-2002)
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