On Nov 25 2016, Al Jazeera Channel (Arabic) aired an investigative story or documentary entitled (The Soldiers), which highlights the kind of training the enlisted soldiers of the Egyptian army receive. The film puts together testimonies of several Egyptian enlisted soldiers in addition to my comments. I’m the only foreign personality that Al Jazeera used to give credibility to the testimonies of the Egyptian soldiers.
I just have a few points to make on this video and Al Jazeera. First of all the interview was based on my article written in 1999 but updated by my continuous study of Arab armies and communicating with U.S. military personnel who are still working on the ground with them. I can safely attest very little has changed because the culture has not changed very much. In some cases the military culture has changed for the worse. One of the main reasons for this is the so called “Islamic revival” which has added another divisive factor to the equation. The original article and the video update are based entirely on my own observations on the ground and those of fellow officers and NCO’s who have been working them. It is not an academic presentation.
Secondly as one can see reading the original article, it was not exclusively focused on the Egyptian army but also the Syrian, Iraqi, and to a lesser extent the Jordanian. The al Jazeera video focused almost entirely on the abominable treatment of ordinary soldiers in the Egyptian army. In fact the Arab soldier in the Iraqi and Syrian army is treated equally poorly, although it is necessary to point to improvement in the Iraqi army as illustrated by the fact that there are no summary executions for political reasons as they were under Saddam.
Thirdly the Al Jazzera investigative documentary focused on the maltreatment of soldiers in the Egyptian army which is only one many factors I surfaced in the article, published by Middle East Forum. This maltreatment is simply not found in Western armies. There are many factors which inhibit the Arab military effectiveness in conventional warfare.
I understand that Egyptians would view this al Jazeera video as an attack on Egyptian military in general. But that is exactly one of the major problems in improving the effectiveness of their armies. They simply will not (or more likely afraid to) criticize their armies. Whereas in the U.S. the military, their customs, leadership, even political orientation are routinely taken to task in hundreds of articles every year, even by junior officers, nothing like that ever occurs in the Arab world. They are sacred cows, even when they fail miserably. Until they begin to criticize their own military culture, they will not improve.
For more information you can also watch here a video that I made to explain further about participation in “Al Asaker”, the Egyptian title which Jazeera chose for their documentary.