The US and UAE forge a new path on defenseMay 18, 2017
The US and UAE forge a new path on defense
By: Danny Sebright
U.S. and U.A.E. officials recently signed a landmark new Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) expanding work in key defense and security arenas between the two partners.
Revealed publicly for the first time on Monday May 15th during Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit to Washington, the deal was signed on 8 May and its purpose is to codify many provisions of a bilateral defense agreement that had already been in force since 1994. The DCA broadens the framework of this extant agreement for the future, significantly expanding cooperation between the defense establishments of the two countries.
Distilling the significance of this agreement, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Monday in his meeting with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, “The Agreement marks a new chapter in our partnership and reflects the breadth and depth of our ongoing cooperation, which is underpinned by the mutual respect we share for the professionalism and efficacy of our armed forces.”
Already, the U.A.E. is the only Arab nation and one of only three countries in the world to participate along with the U.S. in six coalition actions over the last 20 years. These actions include the wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Bosnia-Kosovo, the Gulf War and the current fight against ISIS. The U.A.E. has deployed thousands of troops alongside American ones fighting in Afghanistan over the last 12 years.
Ongoing military cooperation and coordination between the U.S. and U.A.E. is key in Syria, Libya, Yemen in fighting extremism, as well as patrolling vital SLOCs in the Arabian Gulf and along the African coast.
The new DCA is a critical, foundational agreement that will facilitate expanded cooperation in these areas and a host of other areas such as bilateral and multilateral exercises, pre-positioning of personnel and equipment, SOF operations, and disaster and humanitarian relief operations.
Key provisions of the agreement involve arrangements with regard to the sovereignty of U.S. forces in the U.A.E. The U.A.E. currently hosts around 5,000 American military personnel, belonging mostly to the U.S. Air Force’s 380th Expeditionary Wing stationed at Al-Dhafra Air Base.
The agreement will greatly expand the ease by which U.S. forces and their families can live and work in the U.A.E. in the future. The agreement will also facilitate and standardize travel procedures for U.S. military forces. The DCA is meant to enhance U.S. presence on the ground in the U.A.E. to enable closer partnership in the region.
The DCA also deals with tax issues like VAT, Excise Tax, and Road Tolls, helping to provide a roadmap for which U.A.E. tax and revenue laws apply to U.S. forces and their families in the U.A.E.
The DCA contains many of the provisions of standard Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that the U.S. has concluded with numerous allied countries over the years. However, the agreement with the U.A.E. stops short of including any language that is treaty-like in its commitments.
Finally, the DCA is one of the key building blocks required to expand cooperation in other areas. For example, the U.A.E. is the second largest buyer of U.S. arms worldwide and is increasingly being approved for the most sophisticated U.S. defense equipment. The U.A.E. is also looking to further invest in U.S. advanced developments like the country has already done with the F-16 Block 60 fighter and the THAAD missile defense system. The DCA sets the stage for potential new data sharing, technology, and R&D cooperation agreements between the two countries for the future.
While the DCA is meant to last at least 15 years, the intent at signing is for it to last indefinitely. This is in keeping with the U.S.’s long-standing and timeless commitment to the stability and security of the U.A.E. and the Arabian Gulf.
Timely implementation of the DCA will be key in a number of areas. U.S. and U.A.E. expert teams still need to work out some of the implementing arrangements to be able to bring into force key provisions of the DCA.
Importantly, the DCA does not provide for any U.A.E. government financial support to U.S. forces on the ground in the U.A.E. as do those agreements the U.S. has inked for example, with Germany and Italy.
The new DCA between the U.S. and U.A.E. is reflective of a relationship which has matured significantly in the last few years and provides new foundations on which that relationship can continue to grow in important ways in the future.Back to News