What do you really know about the National, Presidential, or Royal Guards of your country? Online information isn’t aplenty. While some of those entities have official websites, others don’t, and for those, we’ve had to hit the books, like in the good old days. Here’s what we’ve found
Saudi Arabia National Guards (SANG)
The “Ikhwan”, or the White Army, was historically the tribal army of Saudi Arabia. It was entrusted with the King’s protection, and initially only included trusted members of loyal tribes. In 1954, the late king Abdulaziz converted the White Army into the National Guards. It is said that only a few members are recruited from Hejaz. Today however, SANG is an independent ministry led by Mutaib Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saoud, the third son of King Abdullah. In recent years, SANG acquired 180 helicopters for USD 25 Billion from France, to be added to an arsenal that includes F-15 warplanes, Apache & Blackhawk helicopters, and MD-530 aircrafts. SANG units have been trained by the United States since the 1970s. However, in 2011 the United Kingdom provided specific training before SANG was sent off to Bahrain to help quash the protests.
Years officially active: 1954-present.
Responsibilities: Protect the King and his family at all times; protect all castles, royal residences, and governmental bureaus; protect high profile guests.
Recently made the news for: Taking part in suppressing protests against the Bahraini regime.
Bahraini National Guard
The Bahraini National Guard is part of the paramilitary Bahraini forces. It’s made up of three battalions, and is reportedly trained by the British forces. Although Shiites constitute around 70% of the Bahraini population, they are not allowed to join the armed forces. The Bahraini National Guards are known for having light arms and fighters. It is reported that between 2008 and 2012, the United Kingdom authorized around USD 18 Million worth of weapons to the Bahraini regime to crush the popular protests.
Years officially active: 1998-present.
Size: 900 in 2009 but believed to have increased to 2,000.
Responsibilities: Defend important facilities; protect the royal family; prevent any assaults from foreign groups.
Recently made the news for: the involvement of the Commander of the Royal Guards, Nasser Bin Hamed Al Khalifa in torturing demonstrators in 2011; resorting to help from Pakistani & Saudi forces in the suppression of demonstrators in 2011.
The Kuwaiti National Guard is an independent entity made up of volunteers trained by the American Army. In return, the United States gets a military base in the Middle East.
Years officially active: 1967-present.
Size: 6,000 in 2006.
Responsibilities: Unofficially, to prevent any political uprising. Officially, to help the Army in defending the country; help the police in internal security; always be ready to help in any assignment given to them by the Supreme Defense Council.
Recently made the news for: A strategic plan to improve the National Guard, which will be fully implemented within the year.
Lebanese Republican Guard Brigade
Up until 1949, the Lebanese Republican Guard Brigade was called “Dragon.” However, it has undergone many changes over the years, ranging from annulment, reestablishment, and increase in numbers. The Brigade is made up of four battalions: One is responsible for safeguarding the President and the Presidential palace, another for safeguarding the premises surrounding the palace, a third for welcoming visiting officials, and a fourth for logistics. It is now under the Lebanese Army’s control and part of its reserve.
Years officially active: 1984-present.
Size: Four battalions, ranging between 300 to a thousand members each.
Responsibilities: Protect the presidential family at all times; protect the Presidential Palace; protect high profile guests.
Recently made the news for: Major General Mustafa Hamdan – former head of the Lebanese Republican Guard Brigade – was accused of playing a part in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
Moroccan Royal Guard
Since 2002, the Moroccan Royal Guard has been lead by the King himself, who is meticulous about issues concerning his Royal Guards and any illegal acts they may commit. The duties of the Royal Guards include being in charge of vetting locations to be visited by the King, guarding the King’s person with 25 members of the Guards surrounding him at all times, to “distracting the enemy and putting forth an emergency plan for evacuation”. Its arsenal includes anti- Tank missiles, combat vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and submachine guns.
Years officially active: 1956-present.
Responsibilities: Protect the royal family; perform in ceremonies.
Recently made the news for: A member of the Royal Guards hit a man who works as a hospital administrator; another member was sentenced to one year in prison for refusing to eat “bad” food he was offered; other members were also accused of brutalizing a woman.
Egyptian Presidential Guard
Before becoming the “National Guard,” the Egyptian Presidential Guard was called the “Royal Guard”. The president’s protection is entrusted to the “777” who are said to be secretly trained by Western countries including Germany. During Mohamed Morsi’s mandate, their vacations were cancelled and they were ordered to protect the presidential palace at all times.
Years officially active: 1952-present.
Responsibilities: Protect the President; protect high profile guests.
Recently made the news for: Two members of the Guard brutally hit an old man who made a remark reminding Mohamed Morsi of the suffering of poor people.
Algerian Republican Guard
It took four years, between 1969 and 1972 to set up the Algerian Republican Guard. They are officially described as very well coordinated and trained, as well as being patriotic and possessing excellent work ethics. It falls under the purview of the National Gendarmerie and consists of several branches including one for music and another for sports.
Years officially active: 1962-present.
Responsibilities: Protect the President and governmental buildings; welcome important guests; participate in national events.
Recently made the news for: In a recent PR stunt, an open house was held earlier this year to get people to know more about the Algerian Republican Guard and encourage enlisting.
The Jordanian Royal Guard is about as old as the Kingdom itself. Since its inception, it is entirely made up of Circassians. Their uniform is considered a masterpiece, consisting of a hat, a robe emblazoned with the Jordanian flag and seven old decorated bullets, riding boots, as well as two swords, and a rifle.
Years officially active: 1922-present.
Responsibilities: Protect the King and his family.
Recently made the news for: The Jordanian Royal Guards stole USD 2,4 million worth of medical aid meant for Syrian refugees.