As a wealthy, but young, developing nation the Qatari’s have adopted a pragmatic strategy of synthesis in many of their endeavours. And as Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the country is on over-drive to develop its infrastructure and security forces to the highest level possible to ensure the safety and comfort of its guests.
I had the pleasure last year of spending some time with the commander and several members of the Qatar ISF’s “Lefdawiya” Group’s Back-Up Unit, and got the unique opportunity to learn more about this largely unknown unit.
The word “lefdawiya” is derived from the traditional Qatari dialect and was traditionally applied to the armed men who provided security for the country. Today, the duties of the Lefdawiya Group include:
- Anti-Gang / Armed Criminals
- VIP Close Protection
The unit is developed professionally through a program of continuous realistic training and real-world experience to keep the unit ready for deployment anywhere at anytime, and capable of dealing with any foreseeable situation.
The exact size of the unit is classified, but ISF officials describe it as “sufficient”. Questions about the unit’s annual budget are also met with the same response. What ISF officials did reveal however is that the Lefdawiya Group is comprised of the following elements:
- Attack Units (with integral transport assets provided by the Qatari Air Force, Navy, and Army)
- Back-Up Unit (provides combat support to attack units)
- Sniper Unit
- Logistics Unit
- Administration Unit
At the individual operator level, selection begins with what they describe as “natural selection” – in other words, only the most motivated recruits who feel that they might have what it takes apply in the first place. Secondly, the Lefdawiya Group only accepts Qatari nationals who have served a minimum of 6 months with the regular Internal Security Forces (“Lekhwiya Force”) first – with graduates of the ISF counter-terrorism course getting top priority to try out for Lefdawiya operator slots. Then, aspirants must successfully complete a full year of training before they can become a full-fledged member of the Lefdiwaya Group. Typically 50% of aspirants “wash-out”, but faced with the conflicting needs for capably-trained personnel and a small population, the Lefdawiya places more emphasis upon finding the right fit for applicants than upon rejecting them. The Group’s aim is to build capability on top of natural ability, apptitude and potential. So, an applicant who simply can’t make the cut to become a full-fledged attack unit operator can still serve as a member of a support, logistics or admin unit.
- “Boot camp”
- Counter-Terrorism course
- “Ranger” course
- Parachute course
- Scuba course
- Sniper course
- Driving course
- VIP / Close Protection course
Upon successful completion of this training program, the applicant is granted “conditional” membership of the Group and placed on a 6-month probationary period. If the applicant passes this probation period successfully, then they become a full-fledged member of the Lefdawiya Group.
Continuation training and skills development is conducted through regular and on-going international cooperation and joint training – often involving the hosting of international trainers in Qatar. The international units with which the Lefdawiya Group has the closest ties are the French Gendarmerie and US Special Operations Operations Command.
Special thanks to the Qatar Internal Security Forces for their assistance in preparing this article.