Which country has the Worlds Strongest Army in the Islamic World? With wars and turmoil continuing in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and hostility in Palestinian Territories, the region’s militaries have had to adapt to conventional and asymmetric warfare quickly, and in some cases relearn the art of conventional war after decades of inactivity. EurAsian Times looks at a TRTWorld Rankings of the Worlds Strongest Armies in the Islamic World?
The Muslim dominated population countries is located between Western Africa to Southeast Asia. Though not identical, they are brought together in some extra-regional groupings, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation with its 57 member countries.
In 2017, Riyadh’s defence budget was third in the world according to the World Bank. The Global Firepower (GFP) index has listed 12 countries densely populated with Muslims on the basis of the quality of weaponry, missile range, training, alliances, manpower, and the strength of local defence industries.
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Here is the list of the 12 strongest militaries in the ‘Muslim World’
12) United Arab Emirates
Active personnel: 64,000
2017 budget: $14.37 billion
The UAE holds the highest rank among its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbours. Perhaps tested for the first time, they’ve refined their relatively small fighting force with front-line experience in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. The UAE’s armed forces only have 63,000 active workforces, with a dependency on Latin American and Eritrean mercenaries, which coupled with its expansionist vision gaining it the nickname: ‘Little Sparta’.
Active personnel: 160,000
2017 budget: $1.59 billion
Bangladesh defence budget books for nearly 6 per cent of its national budget, as it struggles with repeated violations of its territory by Myanmar. It provides in safe escape for Rohingya refugees escaping ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
Bangladesh is located between three nuclear-states; sharing a 4,156 km border with India, and in close vicinity to China and Pakistan. With a complex complicated role in the country, its military must also play a part in internal security, altering between national security and internal stability, as well as UN peacekeeping missions and disaster relief operations.
Since 2009, it has sustained its military arsenal, expanding ammunition manufacturing capacities, purchasing fighter aircraft and submarines.
Active personnel: 198,000
2017 budget: $3.46 billion
The Moroccan Army holds the count of 175,000 strong personnel but is struggling with one of the lowest defence budgets in the Middle East.
The country’s military is heavily involved with the Western Sahara territory disputes and patrolling its long borders. Recently, it was backed by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Active personnel: 154,000
2017 budget: $1.87 billion
For more than six years amidst the dreadful fighting, Syria’s military is a shadow of what it used to be, but battle-hardened. Its military is boosted by the Iranian military, Russian forces and local private militias to keep the Assad regime at bay, after suffering from heavy losses, rampant desertion, and general war fatigue.
Active personnel: 110,000
2017 budget: $4.7 billion
Malaysia has never been found amidst the conventional conflict but, it boasts a modern military with a stable strategic posture between naval strength, technological modernisation, and air superiority.
Malaysia is at headlock with China over the claim of the South China Sea, and a functioning member of UN Peacekeeping forces. In spite of financial limitations and currency instability, its military continues to grow and modernise. It faces tests and trials of matching assets that are dissenting with the domestic and international threats they face.
Active personnel: 520,000
2017 budget: $10.6 billion
Algeria is the largest Arab country by size and has invested progressively in its military since independence. The Algerian People’s National Army has been on active stability since its founding, first fighting a bloody war of independence, a ghastly civil war dubbed ‘The Black Decade’, trailed by more than two decades combatting terrorism, and protecting its significant borders. It is also the only country aside from China that acquired the Russian S400 missile system.
Algeria borders with neighbours including Libya and Mali who actively supports the Polisario Front, which seeks Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, is a serious challenge for Algeria to battle.
6) Saudi Arabia
Active personnel: 231,000
2017 budget: $69.413 billion
The Saudi Arabian military is the best-armed military in its region. In a decade, it has fought a gruesome war in Yemen as the head of an allied coalition. While Yemen has been a proving ground for its military, the drawn-out war has drawn noteworthy international censure over the heavy human toll it has taken, and humanitarian concerns over famine and disease in the war-torn country.
Active personnel: 637,000
2017 budget $7 billion
The Pakistani military is robust, with a long-standing military tradition. In recent years, it has leveraged stronger engagement with Saudi Arabia and China to modernise its forces, with heavy military technology exchange and weapons development.
Operationally, Pakistan boasts one of the largest armies in the region backed by a powerful intelligence service and a steady drive to develop defence industry capacities with, a strong combined arms policy and manufacture modern firearms and ammunition. It is also one of the few countries in the region with nuclear capability. The Arms Control Association puts Pakistan’s as the world’s sixth largest nuclear arsenal with its nuclear stockpile at 140 weapons.
Active personnel: 975,750
2017 budget $6.9 billion
Indonesia is on its way to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2050, its military continues to grow at a steady pace. Aside from its active duty personnel, it is home to an additional 281,000 paramilitary personnel. Its manpower, economy and political clout are enough to safeguard ensure internal stability and growth, as it pursues an aggressive military diversification strategy. Recently, it applied an Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) strategy, giving it a stronger foothold over its neighbours, while it aims for a 274-ship navy, 10 fighter squadrons, and 12 submarines. Indonesia’s modernised capabilities may outnumber other countries in this region.
Active personnel: 534,000
2017 budget: $14 billion
Iranian army is loaded with more men than any other country in the Middle East, with an additional 125,000 in its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as well as other regional militias sourced from different countries. It has also managed to effectively manage large militias while aligning them with its overall military posture through tried-and-tested embedded officers and leadership. Over years of sanctions, it has made the progress towards becoming a nuclear state.
Active personnel: 438,500
2017 budget: $2.7 billion
With the rise of President Abdel Fatah el Sisi, and with the hefty defence budget, tax releases and profitable private contracts, the Egyptian military has free reign to develop and implant embed itself in nearly every aspect of Egyptian society.
The Egyptian military has made major development in modernising its military since Sisi took power, with gradual findings of new state-of-the-art weaponry, refurbished supply chains and more attention given to its navy. Egypt is still battling with insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula for several years.
Active personnel: 355,800
2017 budget: $10.2 billion
Turkey’s armed forces have been active and hold the position of one of the strongest defence system for a number of years. On top of its heavy presence in Syria, Turkey has developed a robust defence industry, manufacturing autonomous armed drones, state-of-the-art cruise missiles, a cutting-edge indigenous battle tank, and battle-tested attack helicopters.
It was ranked above Germany, as the strongest military force in the ‘Muslim world’ and the Middle East, it was also ranked 9th worldwide by the Global Firepower Index. Turkey has also launched large forward operating bases in Qatar and Somalia, growing to expand its geopolitical reach and force projection capacity.