Saudi national guard chief to seek more U.S. backing

A Saudi soldier walks past a damaged house as he patrols on foot in Jizan on the border with Yemen November 3, 2014.

A Saudi soldier walks past a damaged house as he patrols on foot in Jizan on the border with Yemen November 3, 2014.

A top Saudi Arabian official who begins a visit to the United States on Tuesday will seek to strengthen support for the kingdom’s powerful National Guard forces, official media said.

The Guard is a parallel army of around 200,000 men whose duties include combatting “terrorism”.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the National Guard minister, will hold talks with President Barack Obama and defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during the visit which will last several days, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Prince Miteb, the son of King Abdullah, will also meet top US officer the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

The visit comes with Saudi Arabia participating in US-led coalition air strikes targeting extremists of the Islamic State group in Syria, which has raised concerns about possible retaliation in the kingdom.

Prince Miteb will discuss “joint cooperation between the two countries, especially the development of Saudi National Guard forces systems in the field of armament and training”, SPA said.

The Saudi National Guard is formed from tribes which have traditionally backed the rule of the Saud dynasty since it spread its rule in the Arabian Peninsula.

It is a trained army of infantry, mechanized and special units, as well as military police.

The Guard operates in parallel, and as a palace-directed counterbalance, to the Saudi ground forces.

King Abdullah upgraded the National Guard to a ministry in 2013 and assigned his Sand Hurst-educated son to lead it.

In March this year, a source said the king wants to prepare Miteb to be the next in line of succession after Deputy Crown Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz.

A US defense contractor, Vinnell Arabia, has a long-standing training program for the National Guard.

 
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