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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Qatar ‘frustrated’ at delayed US response to drone purchase requests: report

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Qatar’s government had sent in a formal request for four armed MQ-9B Predator drones over a year ago.  

Qatar has reportedly expressed its frustration at Washington’s delay of a purchase request by the Gulf state for advanced drones, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Doha had formally made a request to purchase four MQ-9b Predator drones from the US more than a year ago, but the US State Department, which oversees foreign military sales, has yet to act upon its request despite approving others.

According to WSJ, officials from the Gulf state have expressed that they would use US-supplied drones to keep their eye on giant natural-gas facilities and to monitor terrorist threats in the region, as well as prevent terrorist activities in other regions.

Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup next year was also attributed in the nation’s request for drones, with officials believing that the mega-event will need protection against potential attacks..

Officials from Qatar and the US said the deal, estimated at around $600 million, would provide Doha with a sturdier defensive capability within the region. In a separate request, Qatar has also eyed American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The US State Department has approved similar requests from other allies, including the United Arab Emirates.

This has only added to Qatar’s frustration, which has in recent months aided the US in the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners from Afghanistan following the takeover of the Taliban. It has also supported American counterterrorism operations in the region.

“The disappointment from our point of view is that there is no clear indication as to why our work is being delayed,” a Qatari government official told WSJ.

Zalmay Khalilzad steps down as US envoy following chaotic exit from Afghanistan

Spokespersons from the US State Department declined to comment, adhering to a policy of not publicly commenting on proposed defence sales or transfers.

However, the issue of delayed operations is expected to be at the top of Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s agenda during his visit to Washington in November.

The latest developments come as the US aims to maintain its power and influence in the Gulf while withdrawing from the region amid growing concerns of Chinese competition and power.

According to retired Army General Joseph Votel, who was the former commander of US Central Command that oversees American forces in the Middle East, the US foreign military sales programme is pivotal now especially as Washington reduces its military presence and capabilities.

“In general, this is how we help maintain influence in the region,” said Votel.

Qatar hosts the largest American base in the Middle East, the Al-Udeid airbase, which is used extensively by the US for its operations in the region.

After Saudi Arabia, Doha is also the second largest buyer of US military equipment, with more than $26 billion in proposed purchases via Washington’s foreign military sales programme.

According to the US State Department, some of the sales include integrated air and missile defence systems, radar and advanced-level F-15QA fighter aircraft.


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