US renews presence at Qatar’s Al Udeid military base

The United States struck a deal to extend its military presence at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for 10 more years.

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FILE PHOTO: General view of U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircrafts at al-Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar September 7, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The United States struck a deal to extend its military presence at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for an additional decade, according to sources familiar with the situation. The airbase, situated southwest of Doha in the desert, is home to the largest US military facility in the Middle East.

The initial agreement, scheduled to conclude at the end of 2023, will now be prolonged, with increased Qatari funding directed towards enhancing base facilities. Although the pact is in effect, both Washington and Doha have agreed not to make a public announcement.

Al Udeid Air Base has been key to American operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the past two decade and also serves as a base for the Qatari and British Air Forces. It can host up to 1000 US soldiers. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the base last month and thanked Qatar for increasing spending on maintaining the base, but did not mention the renewal of the agreement allowing the US military presence at the installation.

Qatar has invested billions in upgrading the base’s facilities for U.S. Airmen. The base became U.S. Central Command Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Centre’s main air base in 2003.

The relationship between Qatar and the United States has been intricate and dynamic, marked by close cooperation in various domains, including military, economic, and diplomatic efforts. Qatar holds the status of a major non-NATO US ally. This designation is given by the United States to non-NATO allies with significant strategic partnerships with the US military. Amid perceived rising threats to American interests from Iran-backed militant groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the U.S. has reinforced its military presence in the region.

The Gulf state has played a crucial role in mediating talks between Hamas and Israeli officials regarding the Gaza conflict and the release of hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist group. This involvement stems from the cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people. President Joe Biden has been in regular communication with the emir of Qatar since October 7, discussing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and providing increased aid to Gaza.

Qatar has also served as a communication channel for US dialogue with the Taliban since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Additionally, it played a role in mediating agreements in late 2023 that led to the release of some Americans through prisoner swaps involving Venezuela and Iran.

 

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