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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

US Congress to boost security cooperation with Qatar


The US Congress issued a statement on Tuesday calling legislators to include Qatar in the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] for the fiscal year 2022, reflecting the strategic importance of the Gulf state’s role in the Middle East.
“We note that the United States and the country of Qatar have built a strong, enduring, and forward-looking strategic partnership based on long-standing and mutually beneficial cooperation,” read statement by US legislators.

This comes as US President Joe Biden signed the bill for the fiscal year 2022, authorising $770 billion in defense spending.

Joint statement seen by Doha News.

The first NDAA was passed in 1961 and covers various US bodies not just the Department of Defence, it includes the Energy Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Congress oversees the defence budget through the NDAA and the defense appropriations bills. The former is based on the Senate Armed Services Committee and House Armed Services Committee’s jurisdiction.
The appropriations bill, on the other hand, provides funding for the agencies responsible for defence.
The latest Congress statement comes following close cooperation between Qatar and the US in recent months, especially in pushing for a political resolution in Afghanistan.
Following the collapse of the previous Kabul government, Qatar immediately facilitated the evacuation of Afghans and foreigners in what has been described as the largest airlift of people in history. Doha has since evacuated 70,000 people from Afghanistan.
“Including Qatar in the NDAA for 2022 is kind of the logical result of the developments and events this year where Qatar has proven to the Americans that they are a reliable partner,” Dr. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London and researcher of Middle East and North African Studies, told Doha News on Wednesday.

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

Qatar and the US also signed an agreement during the latest Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, enabling the former to represent Washington’s interest in Afghanistan in light of the US closing it’s embassy following the Taliban takeover in August this year.

“The Americans are understanding that Qatar is more than just a place of transit through Al-Udeid and it has actually become a partner with which the Americans can share the burden of other military operations,” added Dr. Krieg, noting that the unconditionality of Qatar’s support during the evacuations was a key factor in the Congress’s decision.
Dr. Krieg also stated that “America will rely more strongly on its partners in the Gulf with burden sharing”, including Qatar.
Despite the US Congress’s latest statement, there have been no updates regarding the delayed approval of Qatar’s requests to purchase four MQ-9b Predator drones from Washington.

Previous reports stated that the US Defense Department is reportedly encouraging the sale of over $500 million worth of drones to Qatar despite a delay from the State Department’s end.

While the Pentagon favours the sale, the US State Department has yet to approve the request despite green lighting similar applications from other allies, including the United Arab Emirates.

US official says Washington to look into Qatar’s F-35 request

Officials at the State Department said it is wary about the sale due to its fear of angering other Gulf allies, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatari officials previously told the Wall Street Journal [WSJ] that they want to use the drones to keep their eye on giant natural-gas facilities and to monitor terrorist threats in the region.

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.

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

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