The tiny, oil-rich nation United Arab Emirates could be laying the foundation for an Arab peacekeeping force by seeking to buy more than 4,500 roadside-bomb protected trucks from the Pentagon, according to a U.S. government official.
The proposed sale was announced late last month by the State Department without indication of their use by peacekeepers. The transaction could net the Pentagon $2.5 billion and install a large fleet of armored, roadside-bomb-resistant trucks for use in the troubled region.
It follows a series of meetings in recent years between officials from the United States, UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional group of six Middle Eastern nations to establish joint security forces in the region.
The sale of as many as 4,569 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks could equip a force of Arab nations that has yet to be created, said the U.S. government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to discuss the sale publicly.
In December, President Obama signed an order determining “that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to the Gulf Cooperation Council will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.” The members of the GCC are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Pentagon credited the trucks with saving the lives and limbs of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the top killer. There are several troubled countries in the region, including Iraq once again where the threat to a potential peacekeeping force from IEDs, would be high.
Peacekeepers would operate like the African Union, a coalition of African nations that pools resources and troops. Last week, for example, African Union forces along with troops from Somalia — many traveling in MRAPs — chased al-Qaeda-linked rebels from a town in the southern part of that country. Most the troops from the coalition came from six African countries.
A spokesman for the UAE embassy declined to comment on the sale of the MRAPs and what they would be used for. The UAE has about 51,000 active-duty members of its armed forces, according to published reports citing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.