Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Arabian National Guard


This article provides a very good overview about the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) and its history.  No matter where one travels in the Kingdom it is typical to see a National Guard presence.  For example, it is the National Guard which provides security to the expatriate compounds in the Kingdom; to Government facilities and institutions; and hospitals.  During Ramadan and Hajj the National Guard provides an additional presence at the holy cities and sites of Makkah and Medina.

The Saudi National Guard is built from a tribal force whose primary mission is to protect the Royal Family from internal rebellion.  The force was a direct descendant of the Ikhwan, the tribal army that served Abd al Aziz so well during his long effort to retake the Arabian Peninsula for the House of Saud. After having to curb the independent military operations and excesses of the Ikhwan, Abd al Aziz permitted it to reappear as the so-called White Army (the name stemmed from the traditional Arab dress rather than uniforms worn by the members), which later became the national guard.

SANG headquarters include the Headquarters Military Staff, Regional Headquarters (east and west), an Intermediate Field Command in the Central Region (in development), Signal Corps, and a Logistics Command in the Central Region (in development). The SANG training base includes National Guard Military Schools, Regional Training Centers, SANG Signal School, Allied Health Science Military School, and King Khalid Military Academy

Units include 3 Mechanized Brigades; 6 Infantry Brigades; 2 Separate Battalions; Security Force to include a Special Brigade, Special Security Battalions, Military Police Battalions and two Guard Battalions; Headquarters and Regional Signal Units; Regional Logistics Base Commands; one Engineer Battalion; Medical to include Military Field Medical Command, King Fahd Hospital, Falcon Peninsula Hospital, and Regional Medical Units

SANG’s Eastern Region Military Agency consists of the following units: the Eastern Region Headquarters; the Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud Light Infantry Brigade; the Eastern Region Training Center; the Region’s logistical, military police, and service units; and several irregular Fowj elements located throughout the Region from Al Khafji to Abqaiq.

In the Western Sector SANG’s mission includes defense of the two holiest Islamic sites located in Mecca and Medina. The SANG WS consists of a Region Headquarters, two Light Infantry Brigades, a separate Light Infantry Battalion, a Military Police battalion, the Guard Battalion, a Signal Unit, logistics support elements, 8 irregular Fowj elements, and service units.

The Omar bin Kattab Brigade (OKB) is stationed in Taif. A Light Infantry Brigade of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, the brigade consists of four line battalions. Major weapons systems include Cal 50 machine guns, 84mm and 106mm recoilless rifles, and 81mm mortars.

The King Abdul Aziz Brigade (KAAB) is located within the Eastern Region but is under the command and control of SANG Headquarters in Riyadh. The brigade is stationed in Hofuf, approximately 130 kilometers southeast of the coastal city complex of Dammam-Al Khobar-Dhahran. Also referred to as the 2nd Brigade, the unit consists of three combined arms battalions; the 2nd Artillery Battalion, the 2nd Logistics Support Battalion, the 2nd Engineer Company, and the 2d Signal Company. The brigade is equipped with the V-150. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the KAAB was deployed to the Eastern Region area of responsibility (AOR). They participated in the defense of the Kingdom and counterattacked with U.S. and other coalition forces to recapture the city of Al-Khafji from Iraqi forces. The KAAB is the only SANG unit to have been deployed as a unit in actual combat against an enemy. As a result of their role, the advisory effort increased substantially. In 1991, full time advisors were assigned.

It is considered a prestigious appointment to be part of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.  During my time in Saudi Arabia I worked at the National Guard Health Affairs.  When I was a patient at the National Guard hospital I was always shown kindness from the families of Guardsmen.  It is unusual to have a private room at National Guard Hospital unless one is a VIP.  Therefore I shared rooms with wives, sisters and daughters of National Guard careerists.  They always took time to show me special hospitality.


6 Responses

  1. If the national guard is primarily a tribal force, are ther certain tribes that are predominant in the national guard? And which tribes would they be?

  2. Nearly all the National Guardsmen troops are Bedouins, usually from tribes that have been historical allies of the al Saud family.

    The hereditary leaders of important beduin tribes and several merchant families have wielded political influence in the kingdom since its establishment. The principal tribes were the Anayzah, Bani Khalid, Harb, Al Murrah, Mutayr, Qahtan, Shammar, and Utaiba. In addition, there were at least fifteen minor tribes, including the predominantly urban Quraysh, the ancient Hijaz tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged. The national guard, which has been headed by Crown Prince Abd Allah since 1963, recruited its personnel mostly from among the beduin tribes and its units were organized by tribal affiliation. Abd Allah’s family ties to the tribes were also strong because his mother was the daughter of a shaykh of the Shammar, a Najdi tribe with clans in Iraq and Syria. Although the king and senior Al Saud princes did not usually consult with the tribal shaykhs before making decisions affecting national policy, the royal family routinely sought their advice on provincial matters. Consequently, tribal leaders still exercised significant influence in local politics.

  3. “The Saudi National Guard is built from a tribal force whose primary mission is to protect the Royal Family from internal rebellion”.

    That statement is right on the money!!! Of course, what saudi royals have instituted (tribalism in national guard, succession, etc.) is a gift of the continuing legacy from the islamic past and present. After the first four rightly or wrongly guided caliphs (three of whom were murdered in cold blood while praying), all the caliphs/kings/viziers have built armies based upon tribal affiliation and kinship, to protect their dynasties from internal rebellion and to conquer the kafiristans.

    I read a book not too long ago titled “Succession in Saudi Arabia” by Joseph A. Kechichian. He mentions that under Mamood 1 (1413-1421) during the ottoman empire, a “law of fratricide” was introduced in the form of sharia law which gave the king the right to execute surviving brothers/sons to prevent any potential challenges to his kingship. For example, his successor Mamood III executed all his 19 brothers; even his own children were not spared accused of court conspiracies and to block any future challenges to the dynasty.

    Sometimes we forget that Saudi Arabia is not a country. It’s a family mafia corporation that was brought to power in the 1920′s by the Al Saud tribe, fanatical Wahhabi Muslims who made ruthless war against all non-Wahhabi tribes. According to another book I read by the historian Said Aburish titled “The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud”, no fewer than 400,000 people were slaughtered during the formative years of the Saudi State by the saudi army made up of strictly friendly wahabbi tribesmen.

    The Hijazi tribes in the west, the Asiris tribes in the south, and the Shiite tribes in eastern Arabia all witnessed their Islamic monuments destroyed and, of course, suffered horrendous casualties, at the hands of other wahabbi tribes who made up the saudi armies. They were all eventually cowed into submission. Their loyalty has been bought, or promised, or compelled under threat of torture or that Saudi favorite: beheading. Though, it must be said that the Hijazi tribes still despise the Al Saud tribes and there is always the fear that the Hijazis will foment a coup. Hence, the Hijazis and other “enemy” tribes are locked out of the National Guard, the most powerful branch of the Saudi Army. That’s what saudi royal mafiosos do best: strike terror in the heart of fellow citizens. All courtesy of US taxpayers.

    I was shocked that the “training” of the saudi national guard became the responsibility of the Vinnell Corporation of the United States in 1975. I was not shocked by the “training” but the fact that saudi national guard were trained in the art and science of torturing its own citizens, spying, murder, fomenting fitnas etc. About 1,000 United States Vietnam veterans were initially recruited to serve in the long-term training program designed to convert the guard into a mobile and hard-hitting counterinsurgency wahabbi tribal force that could also reinforce the regular army if necessary.

  4. Not a;; expat compounds are guarded by SANG. In Tabuk, ours is guarded by RSLF Red Caps.

  5. That is true and thanks for reminding me Linda. I believe all the compounds I know of in Riyadh are guarded by the SANG but did not think about places outside of Riyadh.

  6. Most of my family work their, my dad is currently a Colonel, my uncle is a Captain, the othe is a Sargent and my grandpa was a Brigader General working for them. Not to mention that most of my tribe mates are working either for them or the armed forces. God bless them.

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