The Tropas Nómadas (Nomad Troops) were an auxiliary regiment to the colonial army in Spanish Sahara (today Western Sahara), from the 1930s until the end of the Spanish presence in the territory in 1975. Composed of Sahrawi tribesmen, the Tropas Nómadas were equipped with small arms and led by Spanish officers, guarding outposts and sometimes conducting patrols on camelback.
First raised in the early 1930s, this force was entitled "Tropas Nómadas del Sahara". It comprised a camel corps, modelled on the French "Meharistes" and serving as desert police. Later the Tropas Nómadas were partially mechanised but camel detachments remained in service until the 1970s. Most officer plus some NCOs and specialists were Spanish. With expansion and increased mechanism the proportion of Spanish personnel in the Tropas Nomadas increased substantially from the 1960s on, many of them conscripts doing their military service in the Western Sahara.
In total, several thousand Sahrawis were given military training by the Spanish. In 1974, 1,374 Sahrawis were enrolled in the Spanish army (most of them in the Tropas Nómadas), according to Pazzanita & Hodges, out of a population of some 74,000 indigenous inhabitants of the territory, according to a Spanish census taken that same year.
After the Spanish evacuation
While the Tropas Nómadas gave effective service during the greater part of the force's history, their loyalty was tested by the outbreak of the indigenous Polisario Front's rebellion (1973–75). Following the Spanish Government's decision to hand over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania towards the end of 1975, numbers of them deserted. Many of the Tropas Nómadas soldiers are believed to have joined Polisario and Spanish-trained fighters formed the core of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army set up to fight Morocco and Mauritania after the Green March.
A separate indigenous unit serving the Spanish colonial government was the Policia Territorial. This gendarmerie corresponded to the Civil Guard in metropolitan Spain. It was commanded by Spanish officers and included Spanish personnel of all ranks.
- Hermandad de Veteranos Tropas Nómadas del Sahara – Veterans' association website, Spanish