Members of the UAE Armed Forces participate in the 43rd National Day celebration. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in his younger days attended Mons Officer Cadet School – Aldershot, now part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and was awarded the Sword of Honor for achieving the highest mark of any Foreign and Commonwealth officer cadet in his intake.

In 1971, Shaikh Mohammad made history as he became the world’s youngest defence minister, and in less than twelve months only, he wisely tackled the serious responsibility assigned to him during the Arab-Israeli war, coup attempt in a neighbouring country and an airplane hijack at Dubai Airport; all these major events took place while he was trying to form a national federal defence force.

The UAE Forces undertook its first international task on 1976 when troops were flown to Lebanon to join the Arab Deterrent Force for a peace-keeping mission in that troubled country.

In 1991, the UAE’s Armed Forces were at the forefront of coalition efforts to liberate Kuwait, marking the UAE’s first involvement in an active war zone.

During the Serbian aggression in Bosnia, which dragged on throughout much of the early 1990s, Shaikh Mohammad pressed for an international force to be dispatched to Bosnia, and made clear the UAE’s willingness to participate in such operation. When the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina was eventually created, it fell under Nato’s mandate and the UAE did not participate directly.

The UAE, however, provided numerous airlifts of wounded Bosnian Muslims to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where they received medical treatment and their families were provided with accommodation and financial support.

The UAE was one of the first countries to commit resources to UNOSOM II, a multinational operation, Restore Hope, policed by the United Nations Operations in Somalia.

The UAE Armed Forces were also deployed in Kosovo in 1999, in an attempt to end Serbian genocide there.

The UAE Air Force has been engaged in bombing missions against Daesh militants in Syria since August.