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TV host Conan O’Brien to cheer the troops in Qatar with Michelle Obama

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Conan O'Brien
Conan O’Brien

Veteran late-night US television host Conan O’Brien will accompany the First Lady of the United States when she visits American troops at Al Udeid Air Base later this week.

After the information was released over the weekend during a White House media briefing on the upcoming trip, O’Brien announced it on Twitter yesterday, saying:

The air base is the forward headquarters for the US Central Command, and is the hub for US personnel as they carry out air strikes on ISIL operations in Syria and Iraq.

According to the US Department of Defense, it has so far conducted a total of 6,059 strikes in Iraq and Syria, with 2,540 in Syria alone in a bid to counter the ISIL threat.

And in recent days, President Barack Obama announced he will order 50 special operations troops on the ground in Syria to help coordinate local ground forces.

“We are intensifying our counter-Daesh campaign and we are intensifying our diplomatic efforts to end the conflict,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said of the move, using an alternate name for ISIL, The Guardian reported.

It also comes just over a week after CBS broadcast the first public “look” inside the air base, with its Inside the Air War special for the program 60 Minutes.

It filmed inside the base and covered an American bombing mission against what had been identified as an ISIS bomb factory, in what is the first time news cameras were allowed inside the base’s command center since the start of the air strikes more than a year ago.

You can see the film and a transcript of key parts of the program here.

In September last year, Qatar’s Emiri Air Force took part in what’s believed to be its first military mission in three years, by flying above Syria alongside military planes from the US and four Arab nations as part of an aerial campaign against ISIL.

At the time, four Qatari planes reportedly provided surveillance as the other Arab nations bombed ISIL targets, and has since provided a “supporting role” to the coalition fighting ISIL.

In a TV interview aired last week, Qatar’s foreign minister reiterated that the country would not send its troops into Syria.

Speaking on  Al Jazeera English’s UpFront, Khalid Al Attiyah said Syrians “can liberate their country themselves,” and ruled out putting Qatari boots on Syrian soil.

Qatar visit

Obama will make her first solo trip to the region, visiting Qatar and Jordan to promote her global education initiative for girls.

She is due to arrive in Qatar on Monday evening, and on Tuesday (Nov. 3) will meet some of the approximately 11,000 US military personnel serving at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base.

Al Udeid Air Base
Al Udeid Air Base

The visit is part of her Joining Forces initiative, which she established in 2011 with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of US Vice-President Joe Biden, to support service members, veterans and their families through education, health and employment opportunities.

Late-night presenter O’Brien will join her at the base to cheer the troops and to film part of a series of specials he is making for his eponymous show Conan, which features on cable channel TBS, according to industry website Variety.

It won’t be O’Brien’s first foray to the region. In 2003, when he was host of the popular Late Night show, he visited US troops in Kuwait and Bahrain, reportedly telling jokes, taking photos with them and chatting as part of a tour by the United Service Organization (USO), which organizes programs, services and entertainment to US troops overseas and their families.

As part of his series of special programs from overseas, he has also made trips to Armenia and Cuba.

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama

On Nov. 4, Obama will also speak at Qatar Foundation‘s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), giving remarks after the opening address of the annual international education conference by QF Chairperson  Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

The First Lady will speak about Let Girls Learn, which she and her husband US President Barack Obama formed to encourage world leaders to provide education opportunities to the estimated 62 million girls around the world who do not attend school.

The second leg of the First Lady’s short Middle Eastern tour will also take in Jordan, with engagements in Amman and Petra.

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