UAE minister warns of new type of war without borders

  • 16 May 2016

Minister of State for Defence Affairs tells conference of the need for new tactics to win modern warfare without borders being waged in parts of the Middle East.

ABU DHABI // Wars without borders, such as those in parts of the Middle East, are among the biggest threats to the security of the UAE, the country’s defence and security authorities said on Monday.

Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, called for readiness to fight this new type of unconventional war and new tactics to ensure the UAE’s protection.

“There are a number of countries that are witnessing conflicts that led to their demise, the disintegration of their structure and the spread of terrorist attacks around the world," he said at the Fourth Generation Warfare Conference at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi.

“Terrorism has become an intrinsic part of the world order. What makes these wars different is the ambiguous nature of the conflict."

Terrorists involved in such wars use unconventional ways to target a country, by attacking its vulnerabilities and cultural and moral values through different ideologies, making it difficult to build a strong defence system, Mr Al Bowardi said.

He said these wars did not acknowledge countries’ integrity, borders nor their humanitarian or armed conflict laws.

“It is not a war between organised armies that countries participate in and are subject to international laws," said Mr Al Bowardi. “It is a war [in which] we are witnessing a party that has a different ideology and it is different to anything we have seen before. It is a war we need to be ready to [win], especially as the party wants to destroy law and the social fabric."

Extremist groups such as ISIL had ravaged countries in the region in recent years, including Syria and Iraq. Other countries that have been targets were Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen, he said.

The conference heard that extremist group tactics are purely strategic, using all available networks, from political and economic to social and military, with the ultimate aim of destroying a country’s political will.

“It is a war by proxy that tries to topple the opponent without a direct military intervention," said Saif Al Aryani, secretary general of the Supreme Council for National Security in the UAE. “The [digital] environment provides the ability to manage these wars from a distance through social media, which allows the spread of rumours and communication across borders. It is difficult for many governments to follow such electronic warfare."

The region has entered a new phase of warfare, where extremist groups control large areas of land and hold valuable economic resources, helping them gain power and spread to neighbouring countries, Mr Al Bowardi said. “We should use all the lessons from the past to face this danger and to keep this threat away from us," he said. “The international community should be held responsible in supporting these countries and not leave them on the brink of collapse."

Maj Gen Ahmed Al Ali, commander at the Joint Command and Staff College in the UAE, said: “They [extremists] aim to instigate ideological conflicts through the use of poverty, unemployment, religious extremism, terrorism and armed militias."

Discerning new security threats, developing new tactics to fight them and protecting countries should be the UAE’s focus, Mr Al Bowardi said.

“We should confront them, not by using conventional means only, but by developing our dogma and strategies to face this danger."


Fifth generation warfare looms over the world

The history of warfare, according to military analysts, can be divided into four “generations".

The first lasted more than 3,000 years until 1860. It involved simple weapons, direct fire, tactics of front-line combat and civil wars. Targets of war were clear and results were straightforward with either victory or defeat.

The second generation began in the 19th century, with the use of comprehensive fire, including artillery, direct confrontations between forces and state control of resources.

The third generation of warfare began after the First World War and lasted for seven more decades. It included tanks, air forces and the introduction of weapons of mass destruction. Machinery became commonplace as well as a new concept of combined manoeuvres and electronic warfare.

The fourth generation of warfare appeared in the United States for the first time and it included pivotal ideas and ideologies. Culture is the target and it is centred around the destruction of the enemy’s cultural and moral values. The nature of such wars are complicated as they are non-traditional.

“It can be said that the fourth generation is the shortest path to the future warfare," said Ali Al Kaabi, head of the Federal Customs Authority in the UAE.

“It is the foundation of the forthcoming fifth generation, which is hybrid warfare, including supporting internal chaos, psychological and media warfare, cyber, space, diplomatic and economic warfare."