Top 10 Worst Armies in the World (2021)

Nobody wants to be the worst at anything, but for a country’s military to be so inept and incompetent that it earns a place on the list of the very worst armies in the world, that is another level of low. 

Still, if somebody has to be the best, then somebody has to be the worst. This list is not made arbitrarily, but careful consideration is taken about each of the listed army’s recent performances in real-life military engagements. Armies with the most abysmal performances are ranked higher on this list, while those armies that can be repaired or resuscitated are further down the list.

Top 10 Worst Armies in the World

1. Costa Rica

December 1 in Costa Rica is Military Abolition Day! That’s right, the country has brought an end to the military spirit; and now redirects its energy and finances to development, education, and culture. Costa Rica does have the Public Force of Costa Rica, which performs law enforcement and border patrol functions. It pays to maintain friendly relations with your neighbors.

2. Afghanistan

The Afghan Army is what you get when a people’s will is broken. This country has not been at peace since 1978, and the war against Taliban forces has been raging since 2001. It goes without saying that the people are tired. Having lost about 65,000 men, the Afghan Security Forces have been worn thin.

Afghanistan has been receiving training from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) advisors, and then the Resolute Support Mission. Despite all the training there is strong evidence that if the US ever does leave Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army (ANA) will likely collapse like a house of cards.

According to a 2009 report published in the news, the Afghan National Army was plagued by inefficiency and corruption. The training efforts by the U.S. have been bedeviled by corruption, widespread illiteracy, diverted supplies, and the general lack of discipline.

Another major problem with the Afghan National Army is the high rate of drug abuse amongst its soldiers. The Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction noted that the number of ANA soldiers addicted to drugs was “at least 50 percent,” and that figure may be as high as 75 percent of all Afghan soldiers.

3. Saudi Arabia

Despite having about 75000 men in active service, the Royal Saudi Land Forces have failed to put down a rebellion in Yemen. The Saudis have led the operation; it is in fact called the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. The Saudis have everything it takes: Superiority in numbers, Collaboration with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Naval and Air superiority, Superior training, and the backing of U.S. intelligence assets.

They have been involved in this military action since 2015, but they have not been able to effect anything. The Houthi tribesmen are still in control, and it doesn’t look like anything is going to change soon.

4. Mongolia

The Mongols were once a feared warlike people who brought much of Europe to its knees. That has changed now; Mongolia is just a flat strip of land between China and Russia. Mongolia does have an army; a standing army of 10,000, with another 135,000 in reserve, but they are terribly inexperienced. Mongolia cannot defend itself from either Russia or China. 

In fact, if a conflict ever broke out between Russia and China, part of it would likely be fought in Mongolia. There is a law in Mongolia that enables the army to conscript young men if necessary, but the country has been at peace for a long time.

Mongolia has sent forces to assist the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they only showed the U.S how to recognize and use old Soviet-built arms and equipment.

5. Tajikistan

The Tajik Army is fundamentally flawed and one of the worst militaries in the world. The problem is deep-rooted, dating as far back as when the country was created after the fall of the Soviet Union. Other countries had native units making up the Soviet Army, and simply absorbed them into the new defense structures, but Tajikstan had non.

 The Tajik military was not built around old Soviet units, in fact, all they had was a Russian peacekeeping force, which left them all but defenseless. When in 1994, they formed their own Army, the result was a  Civil War. That freshly baked, untried, and the untested army was plunged into the fight, and today that army has less than 20,000 people in active service. The law enables the army to conscript young men who are 18 years and older, and there is 120,000 reserve personnel.

6. The Philippines

In world war two the Philippines suffered greatly under the Japanese, and it appears that the country and military never regained their confidence ever since. Even today, the Philippines are often overlooked in the region, and Japan and China disregard the Philippines ’ territorial boundaries. 

Despite the Chinese military buildup in the region; China moving to claim areas and build islands close to the Philippines, there is no indication of readiness on the part of the Philippines to meet this potential challenge. In fact, there is no political will. The Philippine Congress passed a bill appropriating $2 billion to upgrade the Philippines’ Naval and Air Forces, but nothing has been done.

7. Nigeria

Nigeria is showing all the signs of becoming a failed state; the armed forces do not enjoy the confidence of the people, making the country among the worst armies in the world. The country has been struggling with an ISIS-affiliated insurgency called Boko Haram, and the Army has been unable to defeat these insurgents after more than 10 years of fighting.

The army has about 120,000 soldiers in its ranks and seemingly unlimited oil wealth, but corruption, lack of political will, and persistent intelligence failures have virtually brought the army to its knees. The Soldiers are known to desert frequently, there was a recent case of mutiny, and there are too many incidences where the army has opened fire on civilians. The situation is so bad that tribal regions are beginning to form vigilante units to protect their states such as Amotekun, ESN.

8. Eritrea

Eritrea has been called “Africa’s North Korea” in international relations circles. That shows a high level of military mobilization indeed. But military mobilization without anything else to show cannot win wars, or defend the country.

This small country has over 250,000 fighters in the ranks of its army, and one wonders how the country is able to maintain this large standing army. There are accusations that the men are mostly used for forced labor than to secure its borders or fight al-Shabab terrorists. Many of those in the army has been known to the desert, and cross the border into Sudan, as soon as they are able. If soldiers are willing to desert, and then cross into an unstable region like Sudan, then the Eritrean army must be hopeless.

9. North Korea

Many will be surprised to find the North Korean Army on this list; after all, it looks like Defense is the top priority of the Kim regime. That certainly looks to be true, especially when you look at the top brass, and the impressive pictures on display about North Korean defense, that seems true. However, investigations reveal that much of the 1,280,000 personnel on active duty are only used for conscripted labour.

10. Iraq

Since Saddam Hussein’s fall, the Iraqi army has become a shadow of its former self. The spirit and morale has sunken to a new low, and this is despite years of training from U.S. and British forces. Recently, Iraqi lawmakers discovered 50,000 “ghost soldiers” in its ranks- these are troops who received a paycheck, but never showed up for work. This explains where the $26 billion in investments and military aid have been going. As a demonstration of their fighting ability (or lack of it) ISIS was able to overrun much of Western Iraq as Iraqi troops fled even before the Islamist’s onslaught began.

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Conclusion:

Let us not forget that armies are often the reflection of the leadership that controls them; a failure of leadership is automatically a failure of the military’s capacity. Equipment, training, motivation, and morale are all important fundamentals that determine whether or not an army will be effective.